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Remembered Today:

De Wind, Edmund, 2nd Lt VC 15th Royal Irish Rifles


Maxsparky

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The following is located within The Cathedral of St Anne, Belfast.

This may be of interest to forum members.

De Wind, Edmund, 2nd Lieutenant, VC. A stone at the West entrance records his death on 21st March 1918 at St Quentin while serving with the 15th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles. The citation for his award of the Victoria Cross reads:

On 21 March 1918, at the Racecourse Redoubt, near Groagie, France, for seven hours Second Lieutenant De Wind held this important post and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be sent to his help. On two occasions, with two NCOs only, he got out on top under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many of them. He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed.

Can anyone add any more info on this?

Adrian

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I've done a bit of research on 2nd Lt WSB Ross - the only other officer in the 15th RIR to die on the same day as Edmund De Wind - this is my write-up on him -

William was killed in action on 21st March 1918, when the Germans launched the Spring Offensive, the Kaiserschlacht.

The battalion war diary for 1st to 20th March is missing - the comment for the 21st is as follows:

"The diary now deals with the movements of the Battalion details which consisted of transport, personnel of quartermaster's stores, personnel left out of action, other ranks arriving back from leave, and from hospital, together with a draft of 100 other ranks which arrived today. The battalion itself was gone, killed wounded and prisoners . Captain PM Miller MC commanded the little party."

50 other ranks of the battalion died that day, and two officers, William and Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind of Comber, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions that day. The battalion were defending Racecourse Redoubt, near the village of Grugies, to the south of Saint Quentin, when the German artillery opened at 4.35am, with the assault on the battalion beginning at 9.40am. Throughout the day the battalion's trenches were overrun until, as described above, the battalion was gone.

I've always found those words "the battalion was gone" to be particularly chilling

Alan

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Edmund de Wind is also commemorated in Comber on the town's War Memorial in the square, on two plaques at the parish church and in the naming of 'de Wind Drive'.

Cheers,

Nigel

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Some more detail on De Wind from the Cathedral of St Anne. There are memorials in the Cathedral to several people who were awarded the Victoria Cross. One of the pillars at the porch of the main West doors was carved as a memorial to 2nd Lieutenant Edmund de Wind , who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The carving was donated by his mother.

He gave his life in the final year of the war. He died maintaining a vital position almost single-handedly at Race Course Redoubt near Groagie, in the area of St Quentin, in France on March 21, 1918. Even though badly wounded, he held on until help could be sent.

Edmund de Wind was born in Comber in 1883, attending Campbell College before working in the Bank of Ireland in Cavan and later emigrating to Canada. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 and served at the Somme, St-Eloi and Ypres, later receiving a Commission with the Royal Irish Rifles in the 15th (Service) Battalion. He took part in the battles at Thiepval (July 1 1916), Messines Ridge (1917), the third Battle of Ypres (1917), Cambria (1917) and the great German attack in 1918.

The London Gazette on May 13, 1919 recorded the citation:

"For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 21st March, 1918, at the Racecourse Redoubt, near Groagie, France.

"For seven hours he held this most important post, and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be got to his help.

"On two occasions, with two NCOs only, he got out on top under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many.

"He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed. His valour, self-sacrifice and example were of the highest order."

The VC was presented to his mother by King George V. Edmund de Wind has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the missing.

Comber has a street named after him and in Alberta, Canada, there is a mountain named Mount de Wind. A tablet to his memory can be found in Comber Parish Church and recently an Ulster Historical Society Blue Plaque was erected at his former home.

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Just what I was looking for, I am doing research into the 15th North Belfast Volunteers. Any other photographs or information would be gratefully received. I will post an appeal for information on the forum in Due course. Really what I want to do is either have a website on the 15th Battalion Fallen or a remembrance book but I am only at the early stages. I remember Markinbelfast posting information on a thread about 2nd Lt De Wind and was just about to search for it.

Regards,

Phil

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  • 1 month later...
Guest les.moore2

hello

just like to add i have just returned from a family Battlefield tour of the somme and we wanted to locate the Racecourse Redoubt in Grugies as we are convinced my Grandfather Sgt Major Thomas Moore 15th RIR was taken prisoner there. we did find it and were amazed how quite and peaceful the area was.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From an article in the Ulster-Scot newspaper written by Steven Moore.

Like grey-clad ghosts, the German infantry appeared out of the mist which swirled across No-Man's-Land on the morning of March 21, 1918. In overwhelming numbers they swept across the forward British defences, pushing aside the defenders to penetrate deep behind the lines.

But amid the enemy sea there emerged "islands" of resistance, including one commanded by Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind. For hour upon hour, despite there being no hope of sufficient reinforcements reaching him, he fought on until mortally wounded. The German attack on the Somme front had been expected for months, and efforts had been made by the Allies to dig new lines of defence, but it was too little, too late. This was the Kaiser's last throw of the dice - a desperate gamble to win the war before the Americans could arrive in sufficient numbers to give the Allies the advantage.

Among the units standing in the way of the German advance that morning was the 36th (Ulster) Division. They were no strangers to the Somme front. On July 1, 1916, they had been the attackers, driving a wedge into the enemy lines that day only to have to give up much of the territory won because of lack of support on their flanks. In the aftermath of that battle they had moved north to Flanders, where they had spent the most of the remainder of 1916 and much of 1917. The Division's return to the Somme coincided with a major reorganisation, with some of the original units being replaced by others as the division was reduced from 12 to nine fighting battalions. Second Lieutenant De Wind's 15th Royal Irish Rifles was one of those retained, having been formed at the outset of the war by volunteers from north Belfast. The 34-year-old, however, was not one of its original members.

Although born in Comber, Co. Down, on December 11, 1883, he was living in Canada, where he worked for the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Edmonton, when the war broke out. He enlisted as a private in the Canadian army and fought at both the Somme in 1916 and at Vimy Ridge in 1917 with his adopted country. It was only on being commissioned late in 1917 that he joined the 15th Rifles from the home – based 17th Battalion. Because of the weakness of the British lines, a number of strongpoints, known as redoubts, had been constructed. The Racecourse Redoubt, near Groagie, which straddled the old rail line to St Quentin, was held by De Wind and for seven hours he and a few dozen men held out. Although twice wounded he refused to surrender, climbing out on to the parapet under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire on at least two occasions to clear German troops out of the adjoining trench. It was only after he was wounded a third time, this time fatally, that the position fell, with the survivors taken prisoner.

Second Lieutenant De Wind was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and sacrifice, one of seven men to win the highest bravery medal that day. His medal citation states: "For seven hours he held this most important post, and, though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be got to his help. On two occasions with two NCOs only he got out on top under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many. He continued to repel attack after attack, until he was mortally wounded and collapsed. His valour, self-sacrifice and example were of the highest order." Second Lieutenant De Wind has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, with memorials to his name in both Canada and Ulster.

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Nigel Marshall

Comber Church Roll of Service.

NB. Edith C de Wind's name appears bottom right.

IMG_0359.jpg

Cheers,

Nigel

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Nigel, it looks like Edith`s name has been added at a later stage on the Comber church memorial, would you know the reason why?

Regards,

Phil

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Nigel Marshall

Also from Comber Church, this plaque was originally mounted on a German gun which was a trophy and stood in the town square until it was taken for salvage during WWII.

IMG_0363.jpg

Cheers,

Nigel

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Nigel Marshall

Hi Phil,

If you look again I think it is a symptom of the times. There are two women on the memorial, both May Baxter and Edith de Wind are listed below the men.

If that's not the reason, I don't know why they should be at the bottom.

Cheers,

Nigel

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Yes Nigel you at totally right there, I didn`t notice. Great to see the thread growing with new material.

Regards,

Phil

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