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Stephenb

Festubert - attack on Ferme du Bois

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Stephenb

Hello all,

I am trying to establish the role played by the 1/9th H.L.I. (Glasgow Highlanders) in the night attack on the Ferme du Bois on the 15th/16th May 1915. This relates to an officer I am researching who was killed in action between these dates.

My reason for asking is that when I read the Battalion War diary (unfortunately I only have a photocopy that covers the 15th May at present) it states that No.4 company was attached to the 2nd Worcesters as a working party, with the rest of the Battalion in reserve to follow up after a successful assault. It then gives the 'impression' that one of the 1/9th working parties was trapped by congestion in the frontline trench and had to leave with the attacking troops at zero hour i.e. they couldn't get out of the way!

I believe the Glasgow Highlanders suffered considerable casualties in the attack. Maybe the working parties were meant to leave with the first wave anyway, but in an orderly fashion? Does anyone have any detailed knowledge of the 1/9th H.L.I. at Festubert?; alternatively I'd appreciate any book references or links to websites that may help to clarify things.

Many thanks,

Steve

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Robert Dunlop

Stephen, there is no mention of the 1/9th H.L.I. in the resume of Festubert contained in the newly published 'Aubers Ridge', by Battleground Europe.

Robert

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Malcolm

Go to www.snwm.org - click on search WW1 - enter 15/05/1915 in the date and look for the HLI.

Aye

Malcolm

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Stephenb
Stephen, there is no mention of the 1/9th H.L.I. in the resume of Festubert contained in the newly published 'Aubers Ridge', by Battleground Europe.

Robert

Robert,

Thanks for the information re Aubers. The 1/9th H.L.I. were definitely at Festubert, but at the moment it seems they have only got a passing mention in various sources. Perhaps a future Battleground Europe book on Festubert would uncover the part they played!

Regards,

Steve

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Stephenb
Go to www.snwm.org - click on search WW1 - enter 15/05/1915 in the date and look for the HLI.

Aye

Malcolm

Malcolm,

a very useful link. Much obliged!

Steve

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CROONAERT

I don't know if this helps any, but it's the map showing details of the preliminary bombardment prior to the 15/16th May night attack from the O.H.

Dave.

post-357-1118189872.jpg

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Stephenb
I don't know if this helps any, but it's the map showing details of the preliminary bombardment prior to the 15/16th May night attack from the O.H.

Dave.

Dave,

thanks for this. The cinder track is repeatedly mentioned in several accounts of the battle and I wasn't sure how it ran in relation to the front line and the Ferme du Bois.

The newspaper accounts for the officer I'm researching say he was buried at Le Tarret bridge. I've hunted around trying to ID where this was exactly, but with no luck. Assuming your attachment is a section of a bigger map, could you please let me know if Le Tarret is marked anywhere?

Many thanks,

Steve

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Laurent

Hi, some photos of Fermer du Bois area.

Ferme du Bois in 2005 (now a private wood)

FermeduBois.JPG

Ferme cours d'Avoue (south of Ferme du Bois position) High target for artillery in may june 1915

FermeCoursdAvouem.jpg

Cinder Track from south to north Ferme du Bois is on the back of the photographer

cindertrackroad.JPG

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PPCLI

Steve,

I would write to the RHF Museum, 518 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3LW. I am informed that a history of the Glasgow Highlanders has been written (by Colonel A.K. Reid, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, TD, DL) but never published. It is entitled "SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, The Glasgow Highlanders, 9th. Bn. Highland Light Infantry 1914-1918" - a copy is held at the Museum. Since you know the specific action and date it should be possible for them to photocopy the relevant section for you.

I have been told that the staff are very helpful if you visit in person, but my enquiries by email and phone were not very successful (although I did not have such a specific question to ask). Therefore, if you cannot get to Glasgow I suggest that you should make a written enquiry.

All the best,

Stuart

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Stephenb
Hi, some photos of Fermer du Bois area.

Superb pictures Laurent :D

Thanks very much, Steve

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Stephenb
Steve,

I would write to the RHF Museum, 518 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3LW. I am informed that a history of the Glasgow Highlanders has been written (by Colonel A.K. Reid, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, TD, DL) but never published. It is entitled "SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, The Glasgow Highlanders, 9th. Bn. Highland Light Infantry 1914-1918" - a copy is held at the Museum. Since you know the specific action and date it should be possible for them to photocopy the relevant section for you.

I have been told that the staff are very helpful if you visit in person, but my enquiries by email and phone were not very successful (although I did not have such a specific question to ask). Therefore, if you cannot get to Glasgow I suggest that you should make a written enquiry.

All the best,

Stuart

Stuart,

This book should be the definitive reference....I'll definitely get in touch with the museum. I'm working my way through an album of newspaper cuttings put together by the officer's wife...I'm more convinced now that a company of the Glasgows took part in the night assault as a planned operation.

Regards,

Steve

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jdajd

I do not know how, but if you search the old forum, prior to the change, there should be a thread on this topic. Search my name and it should come up as I started it. I have been interested in the 9th HLI since reading The Hell they Called High Wood, although living in America and having no actual connection with anyone (I'm not even Scottish although I do suck at tennis) my sources have been rather scarce. I have been able to get a copy of Alex Aiken's Courage Past, which suprisingly was at the New York Public Library, but that is about it. Next summer I am planning atrip to the Somme to correspond with the night attack on the Bazentins and the 9th's approach to High Wood. If you have access to the war diary is there any chance I could get a copy? Obviously I'd be more than happy to pay for copies and shipping if it is even possible.

I do not know who added it but thanks to whoever posted about the museum. Again, I do not have easy access to Glasgow, but hopefully I'll get a response to a letter.

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jdajd

Wait, I found it this may help:

the 1/9th HLI were involved in the Battle of Festubert where they lost 5 officers and 205 men.

From Ray Westlake's "British Battalions in France Jan-June 1915"

"May 1915 - Moved to Annequin (3rd). One Company to Cuinchy support, one company to Cambrin. To Bethune (6th) then to Gorre Wood (9th). Moved forward at 9pm to support positions in breastworks behind the Rue du Bois. Withdrew to Richebourg-St. Vaast (10th) then in evening took over billets in Rue d l'Epinette. Returned to Richebourg (11th) and took part in failed night attack on Ferme du Bois (15th) Attacked again on 16th. Lieutenant W. Spens killed. Total casualties during Battle of Festubert - 5 offciers, 209 other ranks. Withdreww from forward area (18th) and from Richebourg marched to Les Harisirs. Moved from Hurionville (20th), Vaudricourt (29th).

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Stephenb
I do not know how, but if you search the old forum, prior to the change, there should be a thread on this topic.  Search my name and it should come up as I started it.  I have been interested in the 9th HLI since reading The Hell they Called High Wood, although living in America and having no actual connection with anyone (I'm not even Scottish although I do suck at tennis) my sources have been rather scarce.  I have been able to get a copy of Alex Aiken's Courage Past, which suprisingly was at the New York Public Library, but that is about it.  Next summer I am planning atrip to the Somme to correspond with the night attack on the Bazentins and the 9th's approach to High Wood.  If you have access to the war diary is there any chance I could get a copy?  Obviously I'd be more than happy to pay for copies and shipping if it is even possible.

I do not know who added it but thanks to whoever posted about the museum.  Again, I do not have easy access to Glasgow, but hopefully I'll get a response to a letter.

Thanks. I was at High Wood back in October and have a picture or 2 of the Scottish memorial if you want it. It was a typically rainy day when I was there, nobody around, quite atmospheric etc. Discovered an unexploded Stokes mortar just outside the wood in front of one of the entrance gates, but obviously kept well away from that ;)

Re the Glasgow's war diary, it's not a downloadable from the National Archives at the moment (unless it's gone up in the last 48 hours) but I do have a Word document transcription I can ping you.

Regards, Steve

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CROONAERT
Assuming your attachment is a section of a bigger map, could you please let me know if Le Tarret is marked anywhere?

Unfortunatly, it doesn't seem to be. I can't , after a cursory look, find it marked on any trench map that I have access to for the area either.

Dave.

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Stephenb
Unfortunatly, it doesn't seem to be. I can't , after a cursory look, find it marked on any trench map that I have access to for the area either.

Dave.

Thanks Dave,

I suppose the only logical conclusion is that Le Tarret is a corrupted translation of Le Touret.

Steve

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Stephenb

Great, at last a bit of confirmation that they were an intentional part of the night attack!! The war diary transcript I've just got hold of indicates that they attacked on the 17th, the intended attack on the 16th being called off.....

Wait, I found it this may help:

the 1/9th HLI were involved in the Battle of Festubert where they lost 5 officers and 205 men.

From Ray Westlake's "British Battalions in France Jan-June 1915"

"May 1915 - Moved to Annequin (3rd). One Company to Cuinchy support, one company to Cambrin. To Bethune (6th) then to Gorre Wood (9th). Moved forward at 9pm to support positions in breastworks behind the Rue du Bois. Withdrew to Richebourg-St. Vaast (10th) then in evening took over billets in Rue d l'Epinette. Returned to Richebourg (11th) and took part in failed night attack on Ferme du Bois (15th) Attacked again on 16th. Lieutenant W. Spens killed. Total casualties during Battle of Festubert - 5 offciers, 209 other ranks. Withdreww from forward area (18th) and from Richebourg marched to Les Harisirs. Moved from Hurionville (20th), Vaudricourt (29th).

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CROONAERT
Thanks Dave,

I suppose the only logical conclusion is that Le Tarret is a corrupted translation of Le Touret.

Steve

...or even possibly de Toulotte (farm) or even la Tourelle (crossroads), both of which are a mere 5 or 600 yards from the Fme du Bois.

Dave.

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Stephenb
...or even possibly de Toulotte (farm) or even la Tourelle (crossroads), both of which are a mere 5 or 600 yards from the Fme du Bois.

Dave.

Hmmm....thanks for the feedback, more options to consider. Looking at one of the newspaper cuttings it relates the story of how the officer's brother ensured he was given a Christian burial. Apparantly he turned up at the Rue de Bois, claimed the retrieved body, and organised a cart so that his body could be wheeled to a point of safe burial at 'Le Tarret Bridge'. Quite a bizarre mini-story really, but it appears his brother was a serving officer in a Tunnelling Company in the La Bassee area.

La Tourelle crossroads seems interesting; if for instance it incorporates a bridge, then that could be a strong candidate as the burial location. When I visited the La Touret cemetery/memorial I can't recall a bridge in the vicinity, but I wasn't really looking out for that aspect at the time.

Steve

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CROONAERT
La Tourelle crossroads seems interesting; if for instance it incorporates a bridge, then that could be a strong candidate as the burial location. When I visited the La Touret cemetery/memorial I can't recall a bridge in the vicinity, but I wasn't really looking out for that aspect at the time.

Steve.

Seeing as his brother picked him up from the Rue du Bois, you can forget about La Tourelle which remained behind German lines. I think you're correct with it being a misspelt "Le Touret". If you look at the attached (1918) map, you'll see two bridges, the Rue du Bois and a cemetery all in the vicinity of the hamlet of Le Touret. It's got to be here!

Dave.

post-357-1118276948.jpg

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Stephenb
Steve.

Seeing as his brother picked him up from the Rue du Bois, you can forget about La Tourelle which remained behind German lines. I think you're correct with it being a misspelt "Le Touret". If you look at the attached (1918) map, you'll see two bridges, the Rue du Bois and a cemetery all in the vicinity of the hamlet of Le Touret. It's got to be here!

Dave.

Dave,

I think you've cracked it! Just cross referenced the Le Touret Cemetery description and it seems that this must have been the place he was wheeled to ("begun by the Indian Corp, and in particular by the 2nd Leicesters, in November, 1914"). Furthermore this is where he is actually buried today (I always suspected he may have been reburied, but your map extract shows he was certainly taken to this military cemetery directly).

Many thanks,

Steve

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7:29am

What an great result to this story, i found how it devoloped and concluded very interesting.. more like these please!!

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Stephenb
What an great result to this story, i found how it devoloped and concluded very interesting.. more like these please!!

Jim,

This also underlines the depth of collective knowledge & resource made available via the forum

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7:29am

i'll say, i joined the forum earlier this year and since then have been hooked. As you say the depth of collective knowledge and willingness to contribute is impressive.

At times one often feels reluctant to contribute for fear being "laughed at" but have found this not to be the case over time, although it would be nice to be able to help more.

One critisism i have from the users is the use of heinsight from the safety of their homes to make judgements over decisions taken in the heat of battle and cast blame over outcomes of these decisions. Although freedom and liberty is exactly what our boys were fighting for!!

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Stephenb

Out of courtesy to all those have contributed, and thereby helped me gain a fuller picture of the Glasgow's action at Festubert, I thought it apt to post a picture of the officer's grave at Le Touret. I will post some pictures and extracts from Captain A.J. Martin's memorial book when I get the time.

Regards, Steve

post-2402-1118364610.jpg

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