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Remembered Today:

What’s the battalion with the most losses?


tankengine888
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Hello!

my great great uncle, James Steven McNamara was with the 2nd Battalion at Gallipoli, MIA/KIA at Lone Pine….

”Having started the action with 22 officers and 560 other ranks, they lost 21 officers and 409 other ranks killed or wounded.”

I determined that this officer surviving was Major Arthur Borlase Stevens….

I now wonder, did a battalion lose basically all their men? I’d like to know

Cheers and TTFN

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tank,

2nd Battalion of which Regiment?

Regards,

JMB

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1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers 1st Ypres October 1914.   Only 5 officers & 206 men left. During the 1st 3 days 940  men were reported as killed wounded or missing. 

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Jim,

Thanks for that!

Are you on a school break at the moment?

Best wishes to you and yours.

Stay safe!

Regards,

JMB

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Two well known examples from 1st July 1916:

1.  12th (Sheffield City) Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.  From a trench strength (i.e. less the battle reserve) of around 700: “reported 468 Other Ranks and 15 Officers missing, wounded or killed. The records of Soldiers Died in the Great War give the names of 241 Other Ranks and 7 Officers killed on 1 July.“

2.  1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment (at that time an independent province and not part of Canada).  “The Battalion's War Diary on July 7 states that on July 1 the overall casualties for the Battalion were 14 officers and 296 other ranks killed, died of wounds or missing believed killed, and that 12 officers and 362 other ranks were wounded, a total of 684 all ranks out of a fighting strength of about 929.”

 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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18 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

Two well known examples from 1st July 1916:

1.  12th (Sheffield City) Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.  From a trench strength (i.e. less the battle reserve) of around 700: “reported 468 Other Ranks and 15 Officers missing, wounded or killed. The records of Soldiers Died in the Great War give the names of 241 Other Ranks and 7 Officers killed on 1 July.“

2.  1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment (at that time an independent province and not part of Canada).  “The Battalion's War Diary on July 7 states that on July 1 the overall casualties for the Battalion were 14 officers and 296 other ranks killed, died of wounds or missing believed killed, and that 12 officers and 362 other ranks were wounded, a total of 684 all ranks out of a fighting strength of about 929.”

 

The Somme was expected to have casualties,
But I didn't expect THAT many! That's the cost of war I suppose.

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3 hours ago, tankengine888 said:

That's the cost of war I suppose.

More like uncut wire (days of preparatory bombardment failing to cut it), well sited machine guns firing in enfilade, and a German trench garrison (who the attackers were told would already be dead) standing on the parapet in their eagerness to participate in the turkey shoot…

 

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Remember that a battalion could be wiped out by capture, when the majority of the soldiers were taken prisoner : the word “ losses” can mean different things.  There  might have been huge numbers of wounded - or gassed - but mercifully few killed.

 

If we’re discussing the number of killed, then the First Day of the Somme comes to mind immediately .

 

There were enough other deadly episodes to form a big list.

 

I dread to think what unit histories of  French experience in August 1914 might reveal : incredible numbers of killed, especially on 22 August.

 

Gallipoli produced some appalling stories.

 

Phil

 

 

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For one-day deaths I've yet to find worse than the 4th Worcesters, of the 88th Brigade, on 6th August 1915 at Gallipoli. The CWGC site lists 363 killed from the battalion on that day; add captured and wounded into the mix and I strongly suspect that losses were very nearly 100%. The high proportion of killed is probably attributable to their becoming cut off immediately after their advance; the wounded could not be recovered and their position was simply strafed continuously until nothing moved.

This is borne out by the signals exchanged by the units of the 127th Brigade, in support, throughout the day: they could not work out where the battalion they were supposed to be assisting had gone, and the assumption for some hours was that it had simply advanced to a deep position past the Turkish front line and would eventually be found. It was only later that they realised it had ceased to exist.

No great fuss seems to have been made, probably because (a) the 4th Worcesters were a Regular battalion and so not recruited from a particular town, and (b) most of the bodies were unrecoverable and thus were initially recorded as 'missing'. Had 363 condolence telegrams arrived in the same place at once I think the battalion's sacrifice would be much better known to history.

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Thanks for that information, FuManchu.  From my survey of the casualty statistics in the different theatres of war 1914-18, it’s very apparent that Gallipoli exhibited a higher ratio of fatalities amongst the men who were hit than in any other land theatre, except , perhaps, for East Africa.  A lot of very close quarters fighting, with all the horrors associated with literal point of the bayonet stuff, and some of it more redolent of the Crimea than the twentieth century. If memory serves me, the example you cite might be the occasion of an effective Turkish counter attack, in which British units were overrun and annihilated by Ottoman troops relying on the bayonet.  I’ll check my books and see if I’m able to authenticate this.

 

Phil

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1 hour ago, phil andrade said:

Thanks for that information, FuManchu.  From my survey of the casualty statistics in the different theatres of war 1914-18, it’s very apparent that Gallipoli exhibited a higher ratio of fatalities amongst the men who were hit than in any other land theatre, except , perhaps, for East Africa.  A lot of very close quarters fighting, with all the horrors associated with literal point of the bayonet stuff, and some of it more redolent of the Crimea than the twentieth century. If memory serves me, the example you cite might be the occasion of an effective Turkish counter attack, in which British units were overrun and annihilated by Ottoman troops relying on the bayonet.  I’ll check my books and see if I’m able to authenticate this.

 

Phil

Didn't the people out of the River Clyde suffer severe casualties, specifically (I think) the Manchester's? Or was the Manchester's on the Somme on July 1.

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1 hour ago, tankengine888 said:

Didn't the people out of the River Clyde suffer severe casualties, specifically (I think) the Manchester's? Or was the Manchester's on the Somme on July 1.

River Clyde brings the Royal Munster Fusiliers and their Dublin counterparts to mind.  1st Lancashire Fusiliers came to grief at W Beach 25 April 1915.  Not a good day to be a Fusilier !  Manchesters ?  I must check.....certainly the Somme, in March 21 1918 as well as the more notorious 1 July 1916.

 

The dreadful episode I was trying to evoke was a surprise dawn Turkish counter attack at Sari Bair on 10 August 1915. Described by Robert Rhodes James in his classic book, pages 299-300.  A British contingent of 1,000 overwhelmed , with none surviving. Turks advanced in a mass, without firing a shot, bayonets only. Sounds more like Inkerman than the Great War !

 

Phil

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4 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

River Clyde brings the Royal Munster Fusiliers and their Dublin counterparts to mind.  1st Lancashire Fusiliers came to grief at W Beach 25 April 1915.  Not a good day to be a Fusilier !  Manchesters ?  I must check.....certainly the Somme, in March 21 1918 as well as the more notorious 1 July 1916.

 

The dreadful episode I was trying to evoke was a surprise dawn Turkish counter attack at Sari Bair on 10 August 1915. Described by Robert Rhodes James in his classic book, pages 299-300.  A British contingent of 1,000 overwhelmed , with none surviving. Turks advanced in a mass, without firing a shot, bayonets only. Sounds more like Inkerman than the Great War !

 

Phil

Did you say.. None?????? I don't believe you.. but I do at the same time

Inkerman was 1854 Crimea right?

Yes it was the Munster Fusiliers

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On 1st July 1916 the Newfoundlanders suffered a staggering 94% (ordinary ranks) casualty rate and a disastrous 100% casualty rate amongst its officers.

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1 hour ago, jay dubaya said:

On 1st July 1916 the Newfoundlanders suffered a staggering 94% (ordinary ranks) casualty rate and a disastrous 100% casualty rate amongst its officers.

The Newfoundlander’s (aka ‘The Blue Puttees’) were mentioned last Sunday jay, but I was intrigued to read subsequently about 4th Worcesters where the figure stipulated deaths alone.  The Sari Bair incident seems even worse, although difficult to delineate those died of wounds it seems.

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3 hours ago, tankengine888 said:

Did you say.. None?????? I don't believe you.. but I do at the same time

Inkerman was 1854 Crimea right?

Yes it was the Munster Fusiliers

 No wonder you don't believe me ! I wouldn't believe me, either : let me quote the passages from my favourite Gallipoli history, by Rhodes James, pages 299-300 :

 

The Turkish attack was an awesome spectacle.  The astounded British suddenly beheld dim, dense masses of Turks pouring over the sky-line, not firing a shot, and advancing with the bayonet. The trenches on Chunuk Bair and The Pinnacle were overwhelmed almost at once, and none of the British troops - over 1,000 - survived........The British on Rhododendron, themselves desperately pressed, saw the Turks close with Baldwin's men on the edge of The Farm, and then all was fearful confusion......Baldwin and almost all his officers had been killed, and the remnants were falling back into the shelter of the ravines, leaving over 1,000 officers and men dead or dying on the tiny plateau.  Many of those who fled were lost in the ravines and never heard of again.  Even in the 1960s their bones are still being found.

 

Is this hyperbole ?  I don't think so.  Forgive me for not mentioning the specific battalions : we might identify the CWGC reckoning if we knew which one/ones were involved.

 

And yes, Inkerman was in the autumn of 1854, in the Crimea : the story of that battle bears some resemblance to this , with huge Russian hordes coming out of the mist in a surprise attack, and a nightmare close quarters fight ensuing.  In both cases, the attackers gained an initial surprise, only to be contained and slaughtered themselves.

 

Phil

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2 hours ago, phil andrade said:

 No wonder you don't believe me ! I wouldn't believe me, either : let me quote the passages from my favourite Gallipoli history, by Rhodes James, pages 299-300 :

 

The Turkish attack was an awesome spectacle.  The astounded British suddenly beheld dim, dense masses of Turks pouring over the sky-line, not firing a shot, and advancing with the bayonet. The trenches on Chunuk Bair and The Pinnacle were overwhelmed almost at once, and none of the British troops - over 1,000 - survived........The British on Rhododendron, themselves desperately pressed, saw the Turks close with Baldwin's men on the edge of The Farm, and then all was fearful confusion......Baldwin and almost all his officers had been killed, and the remnants were falling back into the shelter of the ravines, leaving over 1,000 officers and men dead or dying on the tiny plateau.  Many of those who fled were lost in the ravines and never heard of again.  Even in the 1960s their bones are still being found.

 

Is this hyperbole ?  I don't think so.  Forgive me for not mentioning the specific battalions : we might identify the CWGC reckoning if we knew which one/ones were involved.

 

And yes, Inkerman was in the autumn of 1854, in the Crimea : the story of that battle bears some resemblance to this , with huge Russian hordes coming out of the mist in a surprise attack, and a nightmare close quarters fight ensuing.  In both cases, the attackers gained an initial surprise, only to be contained and slaughtered themselves.

 

Phil

The two regiment’s’ battalions who were swept away were both New Army units; the 6th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and the 5th Bn Wiltshire Regiment.  The latter was caught entirely in the open through no fault of their own and completely annihilated.  See pages 708 to 712 here: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1069533/document/5519030.PDF

D8CD5F11-2DC3-4A01-A702-7A6CFE0F59F4.jpeg

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Many thanks, FROGSMILE.

 

Using the CWGC website, I entered the unit Wiltshire Regiment, 10 August 1915, Turkey, and it yielded 145 names.  Heavy loss indeed, but nowhere near as bad as the story I cited implies.  Loyal North Lancs gave 32 names.  So I’m left wondering what to make of it all.  

 

Phil

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32 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

Many thanks, FROGSMILE.

 

Using the CWGC website, I entered the unit Wiltshire Regiment, 10 August 1915, Turkey, and it yielded 145 names.  Heavy loss indeed, but nowhere near as bad as the story I cited implies.  Loyal North Lancs gave 32 names.  So I’m left wondering what to make of it all.  

 

Phil

Yes it’s very puzzling.  It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that there was a little exaggeration and that to get a truer assessment of casualties it would be better to look over the period running from the 9th and up to 7-days or so beyond.  All the battalions concerned were unblooded at the time so much will be revealed by examining the totality of subsequent drafts of reinforcements to bring the battalion’s back to fighting strength.

NB.  I imagine there’s also a constraint placed via those recorded as ‘missing believed killed’, because I think there was an interval before death could be assumed and thus the figures adjusted.

 

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All horrific numbers regardless. 
 
I am going to highlight one of the lesser known gas attacks - that of the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers who suffered a gas attack during second Ypres (24th May 1915). The WD states there was 668 men on the Bn. strength that morning with only 21 men remaining on the strength that evening. That is a 97% casualty rate.  CWGC has 156 KIA on that day, presumably rising over the following days/weeks/months as the gas took it's terrible effects. 

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On 22/03/2022 at 17:57, FuManchu18 said:

For one-day deaths I've yet to find worse than the 4th Worcesters, of the 88th Brigade, on 6th August 1915 at Gallipoli. The CWGC site lists 363 killed from the battalion on that day; add captured and wounded into the mix and I strongly suspect that losses were very nearly 100%. The high proportion of killed is probably attributable to their becoming cut off immediately after their advance; the wounded could not be recovered and their position was simply strafed continuously until nothing moved.

This is borne out by the signals exchanged by the units of the 127th Brigade, in support, throughout the day: they could not work out where the battalion they were supposed to be assisting had gone, and the assumption for some hours was that it had simply advanced to a deep position past the Turkish front line and would eventually be found. It was only later that they realised it had ceased to exist.

No great fuss seems to have been made, probably because (a) the 4th Worcesters were a Regular battalion and so not recruited from a particular town, and (b) most of the bodies were unrecoverable and thus were initially recorded as 'missing'. Had 363 condolence telegrams arrived in the same place at once I think the battalion's sacrifice would be much better known to history.

They are staggering losses. It is a strange how this action, seem to be lost in among the more high profile events.  

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13 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

 

NB.  I imagine there’s also a constraint placed via those recorded as ‘missing believed killed’, because I think there was an interval before death could be assumed and thus the figures adjusted.

 

You're really onto something there, I reckon, FROGSMILE.

There are a couple of anomalies that come straight to my mind : the CWGC commemorations for the First Day of the Somme are significantly fewer than the 19,240 that we know are attributed as killed or died from wounds ( there were another 2,152 missing unaccounted for) : might it be that men who died from wounds received that day died a day or two later, but have been lumped by the official history as fatalities of 1 July ? On the other hand, the CWGC commemoration for 25 September 1915 far exceeds the evidence compiled by the Official History regarding the first day of the Battle of Loos : a reversal of the disparity for the First Day of the Somme.

 

Phil

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22 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

You're really onto something there, I reckon, FROGSMILE.

There are a couple of anomalies that come straight to my mind : the CWGC commemorations for the First Day of the Somme are significantly fewer than the 19,240 that we know are attributed as killed or died from wounds ( there were another 2,152 missing unaccounted for) : might it be that men who died from wounds received that day died a day or two later, but have been lumped by the official history as fatalities of 1 July ? On the other hand, the CWGC commemoration for 25 September 1915 far exceeds the evidence compiled by the Official History regarding the first day of the Battle of Loos : a reversal of the disparity for the First Day of the Somme.

 

Phil

It does seem a possibility.  One of the forum members with greater knowledge of the CWGC might be able to comment.  Certainly I think that because the Sari Bair incident led to the smashing of the two British battalions, and Sari Bair was never occupied again, the difference between those who died immediately on the spot and those who were wounded, or missing, and then died later, was impossible for the CWGC to delineate.

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