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18th Hussars diary- 12 & 13th May 1915


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Can anyone who has access please confirm what the 18th Hussars diary states for the period of 12th and 13th May 1915. I'm trying to answer a couple of queries which I have over their position on those days.

Thanks

Craig

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Craig - the 18th Hussars' war diary claims that they held their trenches under a severe bombardment. The 2nd Bn Essex Regt which was sent in to reclaim the 'lost' trenches claims to have found them empty. This is a very typical example of some of the thousands of small conflicting fragments of events and perhaps emphasises why one needs to handle the primary material with some caution. It also highlights the absolute necessity to cross-reference the records. I hope the following helps: 18th Hussars and 2nd Bn Essex Regt War Dairies. Transcribed from the originals held at The National Archives. MG

18th Hussars War Diary 12th-14th May 1915. [Ref Wo 95/1113/1]

12th May 1915: VLAMERTINGHE. In reserve till evening. All led horses sent back to permanent billets at BERTHEN. The regiment proceeded to WIELTJE and took over about 300 yards of the left of a line of trenches reaching from 500 yards E of WIELTJE (3 miles NE of YPRES) on the left to the YPRES - VERLEMHOEK Road on the right. All quiet.

13th May 1915. VLAMERTINGHE. In trenches. At 3:30 am the enemy opened heavy shell fire on the front trenches held by the 2nd Cavalry Brigade that portion held by the 18th Hussars being particularly battered. Considerable lengths of trenches on the left of the 18th Hussars' line were demolished by cross fire from heavy howitzers. Casualties became very heavy.

All communication was cut by the levelling of the trenches and the incessant fire of guns and machine guns.The part of the right Sqn under Capt O'KELLY 1 after considerable loss were withdrawn by its commander to a ditch about 150 yards in rear of the fighting line which he had been informed gave better cover but not liking something returned at 6:30 am to the firing line, the other part of B Sqn under Lt LANE 2 remained in the firing line all the time.

The centre Sqn under Capt LYON 3 (A) suffered severely. Out of 3 officers 1 was killed (Lt TAYLOR 4 ) and 2 were wounded (Capt LYON and Lt CHASEMORE 5 ) and 3 out of the 4 Troop Sergeants were killed. Major CORBETT 6 who commended the Regt this day, Lt Col BURNETT7 being in charge of the Brigade, was killed as he was going along the trench to encourage his men. The right trenches of C Squadron were blown to pieces. A Company of the Essex Regt came up to occupy the line which were supposed to be abandoned, but the 18th Hussars were found to be still in possession.

During the remainder of the day the remnants of the Regiment held the still intact parts of the parapets aided by the machine gun of the Essex Regt and about a Company of the same Corps. The bombardment of the 18th Hussars' trenches was of such an intensity that a black pall hung over them for long periods from 3:30 am until about 10 am, when heavy intermittent shelling continued till dark. The noise was deafening and the place a veritable inferno. The regiment retired at 9 pm to the support trenches having been relieved by the 4th DGs and at midnight the whole Brigade was relieved by Infantry and withdrew to the support line close to the CHATEAU of POTIJZE and just N of the same. The following were the casualties:

Officers: ...........2 killed - 6 wounded

Other Ranks:.. 19 killed - 103 wounded - 24 missing

14th May 1915. POTIJZE. In trenches. All quiet. Withdrew to huts in VLAMERTINGHE

Notes

1. Capt Henry Arundell de Petheny O'Kelly listed as KIA on 18th May 1915 and 13th Hussars attached to 18th Hussars. War diary confirms KIA on 18th May 1915. Listed in 1914 Army List under 13th Hussars as riding Master and in the 1915 Army List under 18th Hussars as Riding Master and Reserve of Officers.

2. 2 Lt J A B Lane listed under 18th Hussars in the 1915 Army List.

3. Capt E L Lyon. Listed in 1915 Army List under the 18th Hussars

4. Lt C T Taylor listed under 18th Hussars in 1915 Army List. Also a 2 Lt E Taylor listed.

5. 2 Lt P A Chasemore listed under 18th Hussars in the 1915 Army List. Special Reserve.

6. Maj C H Corbett listed under 18th Hussars in 1915 Army List

7. Lt Col Charles Kenyon Burnett. Listed in 1915 Army List as a Major

2nd Bn Essex Regt War Diary

4:00 am. Germans started heavy bombardment with heavy artillery all along the front from SHELL TRAP FARM (about 1000 yards N of WIELTJE (Sheet 28) southwards

5:30 am. Some Cav retired on right (Cav were holding line from St JULIEN - WIELTJE road southwards) line from SHELL TRAP Fm to Cas [?] held by 11th Bde.

5:40 am. Lull in bombardment.

5:55 am. Bombardment commenced again.

6:55 am. Body of men , some hundred or so seen retiring back from ridge about 100 yds S of SHELL TRAP FARM

7:00 am. C Company (Lt ATKINSON1) ordered to advance and support it or retake it if found to be in enemy's hands - A Coy ordered from reserve trench to take C Coy's place in support trench.

7:15 C Coy moved off.

7:35 am. Leading section of C Coy reached the ridge - FARM found to be in possession of the enemy - attack held up by moat round farm into which several men fell. Enemy eventually driven out of farm by fire - C Coy had carried out the advance and attack in good order under heavy artillery and rifle fire. A machine gun was splendidly (sic) brought into action by Sgt COUZENS2 (Lt ATKINSON wounded).

8:20 am. Following message received from GOC 11th Bde (under whose orders the Bn were) "Retake at once front line from SHELL TRAP FARM to FORTUIN - WIELTJE ROAD" SHELL TRAP FARM having been already retaken by C Company the remainder of the Bn were ordered to attack as follows; - A Coy to retake trenches between FORTUIN - WIELTJE and St JULIEN - WIELTJE roads with its left on road junction 500 yards NE of point where WIELTJE - St JULIEN and FORTUIN - WIELTJE join.

B Coy (Capt PECHELL) were ordered to prolong the line to the left with their right on the road junction mentioned above.

D Coy (Lt SMITH-MASTERS) were ordered to side slip up the support trench to the position which B Coy were going to vacate in rear of B company

It was thought that when B and A Coys had retaken their trenches D could be diverted half left and retake the remainder of the trench to left of B Coy assisted by B Coy on the right and C Coy on the left (SHELL TRAP FARM)

8:30 am. A and B Coys moved off. The attack by these two companies was splendidly carried out with great dash and determination. They were subjected to a very heavy artillery fire both high explosive & shrapnel and on reaching the ridge to heavy machine gun fire [illegible] in spite of fairly heavy casualties. The ground very nearly to the ridge was covered in quick time, the last 350 yards being covered at the double. On arrival in the trench is was found to be blown almost to pieces and could only be held in places. It was also found that on the left of B Company the E LANC REGT were holding the ridge, D Coy were therefore ordered to dig in in rear which they did making use of the numerous shell holes.

10:15 am. The Bn were settled in the trench and were clearing the parts which had been blown in

The Battn were relieved in the trench by KING's OWN on the right and by the reserve Company of the EAST LANC at SHELL TRAP FARM and withdrew to the Div support trench vacated in the morning and reorganised. Sections and companies having got rather mixed up in the attack.

On arrival at the support trench, wet and very cold the Bn has the pleasure of finding that the packs and great coats had been ransacked and many things taken presumably by the troops sent to occupy the trench when the Bn moved out.

37 killed, 94 wounded, 49 missing.

Notes:

1. Lt J V Atkinson

2. 8592 Sgt J COUZENS 2nd Bn Essex Regt. disembarked 28th Dec 1914 KIA 13th May 1915.

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Thanks Martin - most appreciated.

The ground very nearly to the ridge was covered in quick time, the last 350 yards being covered at the double

I suspect this is very understated.

Craig

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