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Battle of the Dunes, July 1917


Hugh Pattenden
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19 minutes ago, MBrockway said:

They did indeed lay pipework.  Most of the flamethrowers used were the large fixed installations capable of projecting large quantities of burning fuel into the British trenches either side of the Hooge Crater.  The portable backpack-style units were only used in the southern sections of the British-held trenches .. and with considerably less impact.

 

If you have a look at the Liquid Fire topic and follow the links to the other topics there, you will find a lot of detail on what would surely have been one of the other defining experiences of your grandfather's life.

 

:poppy:

 

Thank you Mark, I'm off to look for the liquid fire topic now, be in touch soon, thanks again

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Great account John - thanks for sharing it with us. I am visiting the Strandfest area later this year and will take a copy of the account with me.

 

Neil

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11 hours ago, Johnjoeflatley said:

Thank you Mark, I'm off to look for the liquid fire topic now, be in touch soon, thanks again

 

John,

No need to search for it - just follow the link in Post #214 above or here where I've repeated it ...

 

On 22/01/2017 at 16:11, MBrockway said:

John,

This refers to the Liquid Fire attack against 14th (Light) Division at Hooge on 30 July 1915, which inter alia saw the first Kitchener VC and the death of  Lt. Gilbert Walter Lyttelton TALBOT, 7/RB - in remembrance of whom Talbot House and ToC H were founded.

 

See here for a great deal of detail on this action and the subsequent counter-attacks: 14th (Light) Division - Hooge Liquid Fire attack & later actions

 

and the early posts in this topic give 7/RB's disposition in ZOUAVE WOOD for 14th (Light) Division's counter-attack against the Hooge crater:

7th Rifle Brigade

 

Clearly Rfn Ryan was present there with 7/RB in 41st Brigade.

 

Mark

 

Or use this link ...

 

Remember to follow the links contained therein too: they give additional detail on the Hooge action.  The Hooge topic was intended to act both as a Remembrance topic and also a single "clearing house" connecting together all our older topics on the Action.

 

In 2015, while I was writing that topic, Andy performed a solo vigil on the 100th anniversary at the battle site and at the exact time.  His phone call to me shortly afterwards, understated but deeply moving, will remain with me always.

:poppy:

 

Mark

 

 

Edited by MBrockway
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    Thank you Neil ,i am hoping to visit myself on the anniversary ,does anyone know if there are any events or memorials to mark the centenary on 10th july

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Thank you Mark I got there , i feel like the cat who got the cream , so much information i really appreciate your help. 

 

Here are some pictures I thought you might like to see ....

 

You might need to rotate some for accurate reading. 

 

Picture 1 is my grandad - Michael Joseph Ryan

Picture 2 - a letter from Buckingham Palace on his return from his time as a POW

Picture 3 - A letter home from Lager Lichfield (he mentions his dislike of silas)

Picture 4 - A letter from an old commrade which accompanied some presents ( pontifrat cakes) which were send to my aunts and uncle (his children)

Picture 5 - Another letter from Lager Lichfield

Picture 6 -  A postcard from Lager Lichfield 

 

Just thought I would put a face to the name for you

 

 

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IMG_7891.JPG

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John - wonderful!  Thanks for sharing all this with us.

:poppy:

Mark

 

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Thank you all for the continuous source of information.

Where Thomas Knight was exactly in the battle, and how he was captured we may never know, but all this information has given me a definite timeline of his part in the war from early July 1917, until the end of the war. It has also opened a page on the Battle of the Dunes. A battle that I didn't even know had happened!!

 

John, your grandfather's story of everything on and from July 10th 1917 is absolutely fascinating, and gives me a very good idea of what my grandfather went through.

Thank you so much!!

 

I had been gathering this information for my uncle, the son of Thomas Knight. He had very little knowledge of his fathers time in WW1.

Before I could visit my uncle, I'm sorry to say he passed away on Monday (Jan 23rd 2017), he was 91 years old.

Since all the family will be attending the funeral, it leaves me no option but to sit down with the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grand children of Private Thomas Knight, and tell them this story. I have no doubt some of them will be researching further into this part of history also.

 

Thank you all again!

Michael Caird

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Michael,

 

Very sorry for your loss.

 

Andy

Edited by stiletto_33853
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Michael I am so sorry to hear of your loss.  Please accept my condolences and pass my thoughts to the family.

Yours,

Mark

 

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I have gotten a bit confused, have sent out several bits of information on both the Strandfest (as us Huns like to call it, "A festival on the dunes") and the other interesting battle, at Hooge much earlier, both employing Flammenwerfer (FW). I will post the Hooge-related info here, and then golooking for the Hooge thread, if there is one. This is a slightly edited copy of a PM I sent to someone posting in this tread, or at least being mentioned. 

 

 

 

" Happy to cooperate with you. I have amassed over 1000 pages of timelines linked to the more detailed sources on FW activity, plus another 500 pages on other WW I topics. I have  But your material on the Hooge attack from the other side would be useful. The hooge attack was one of the most important of the about 600 flame attacks the Germans made. (The biggest employed 154 flame-throwers. That must have been fun to defend against.)

 

Got to run to work (at 77).

 

Bob

 

(RGL - Later.)

 

I just looked into my general timeline for the German flame-thrower regiment, my father's unit from Fall 1916 at Verdun to discharge in Germany in December 1918 (Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer)  ) and there is only five pages on the Hooge attack, and some of that was British material. However, the notes indicate that when I was working on this topic some years ago I was working on other Hooge documents, in particular a bibliography on the attack. What I looked at was a timeline, not a transcript of the material that I found; a three line entry might briefly describe and give a reference for a six-page entry in some stated source. (Note - I will look for the other Hooge material later, I know that I amassed more info on this interesting attack.)

 

One entry gave the relevant line from the sketchy history of the flame regiment by its commander, Major Reddemann:          

July 30, 1915 -      “Attack of Company Beck against the Hooge Position in Flanders on July 30, 1915 with nine large flame-throwers and 11 small flame-throwers.  After shocking the forward positions the ones behind were occupied without much resistance.  Many prisoners.”  RGL translation of entry in Reddemann’s History, p. 19.    

 

"Company Beck identifies the attacking flame company by its commander, "Beck", who would have been a captain or a first lieutenant. I have over 100 pages of organized notes on the officers and the men of the flame regiment, and I am sure that I have more on Beck."  (Note: I remember his name from my research years ago. He was one of the principal officers of the flame regiment, might have commanded one of its battalions later.) Another entry gives the attacking force as using nine large fixed FW (Flammenwerfer, my shorthand) and 11 portable FW, and a third states that the flame company had no casualties. But they only listed the dead, not wounded but recovered. Any KIA, wounded but later lost, missing, or lost to disease proximitate to the battle would have been listed, and his name and rank given The flame regiment, across the entire war, in most attacks did not lose a single man, and most of their attacks was on the Western Front. I have the complete listing of the lost men.So the FW company might have had wounded, but no dead, died of wounds, etc.

   

I thank you for the ten scanned pages, which I have to this moment just seen and skimmed in part. I saw it contained talk of the vulnerability of the FW men to rifle fire, with the FW exploding when hit. 

 

I have studied the FW fighting for 16 years, have read hundreds of sources, almost all primary sources, I almost never read secondary sources. I have read many dozens of war histories of French units, for example, looking for received FW attacks. (Someone asked recently, and I counted and identified 11 languages that I have used studying the Great War, I would guess that 5-10% of my reading is in English) I have only come across about two examples in which the operator(s) of a FW were hit and the device "exploded" or caught fire and killed or injured the FW men, and I have notes on and have identified over 300 FW attacks by the Germans in WW I. Allied FW did explode, mostly due to bad design (I an a mechanical engineer). The Germans started their work on FW design about 1902, the allies mostly started hurredly during the war, and most of their designs were simply bad designs. The final design for the light FW, the Wex, adopted about 1916, was a more sophisticated design than the WW II German light FW, and weighed less than the standard field pack, when loaded with fuel and propellant. The Germans used inert compressed nitrogen as a propellant, most Allied FW used compressed air or even compressed oxygen (a crazy idea), gasses that reduced range and made the devices much more dangerous. The fuel oil was not under pressure, in most of the device (that might not actually be true, I have not studied the designs in detail, but they were safe designs, and incidentally much of the FW were actually made in France by the regiment's workshop company.) , in a bit of the device under pressure from nitrogen. When pierced by a bullet, the nitrogen probably would put out any fire, compressed air or oxygen might cause a fire or firery explosion. Plus the pressures were not very high, making the devices safer. The standard Italian flame team had one man with a wet blanket, but their devices were prone to catch fire, being bad designs. Many Allied accounts fantizised that German FW teams wore protective clothing. Never. But my father's letters complained that the flame oil soiled his uniforms. The standard German flame team included two men with a back-pack device containing a fuel oil and a nitrogen propellant attack, during the attack the nozzle device could be switched to the second oil and propellant device. The unit might have yet more oil and nitrogen at hand. So in the field the men hurredly changed connections, fitted new tanks, and soiled their uniforms. But explosions and firey deaths? No.

 

Hope this is useful. I will look in the identified sources for more info on the German side of the attack. But my timeline already has more Brit material than German. But I love the related Allied accounts of the same flame attack from the other side. 

 

Incidentally, the afternoon counter-attack was a hopeless venture and cost a lot of, the bulk of the Brit casualties. I think a badly-conceived attack ordered by frustrated higher command.  

 

Any questions?

 

 

 

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On the topic of the Allied exploding FWs, I now remember British officers (I think from Foulke's Special Brigade) going to a demonstration of a  FW designed by what I have termed a "gentleman tinkerer", often officers who in their spare time fooled about designing weapons, sometimes ingenious, sometimes awful designs of useless contraptions.

 

In this case the announced demonstration of an experimental FW went bad, the device exploded, and the British officer set himself on fire. The observing officers took particular care to obtain a cheap OR's overcoat to put out the burning officer, rather than one of their tailored overcoats, delaying extinguishing the burning officer.

 

As I remember, the tone of the account of the exploding experimental FW (and officer) was one of glee, at the failure of a competing design.

 

As an engineer, I prefer qualified people designing complicated devices. The two German FW designers was 1) a qualified engineer and designer, starting in 1902, and:

2) the commander of the fire department of a major German city (Leipzig), who was a Reserve Pionier officer and a lawyer, (Not sure how much the latter training added; in Germany of the period a law degree was akin to a MBA today, so many German Reserve officers were also lawyers; also, by military regulation, every German soldier facing a serious courts martial was guaranteed a qualified lawyer as his defense counsel.), who started his work on FW in 1907, and was ordered to put together the first FW unit very early in the war. As a fire department head and reserve Pionier unit commander he was familiar with pumps, hose fittings, etc., and had skilled mechanics and other craftsmen at hand. 

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On 7/30/2015 at 12:13, Ravrick said:

Hi  Michael

               sorry to hear your sad news, give my condolences to all the family. may he rest in peace.

                                                         take care John

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  • 3 months later...

I am a new member to the forum and wonder if people could advise on what commemorations are planned for the centenary of the battle of the dunes. I have looked on the Nieuwpoort city council website and cannot find much. My great grandfather was in the MGC and captured at the battle. I have been enthralled to read the vast wealth of information about the battle you have all contributed to. Many thanks. 

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Probably none Sean but I hope to be Nieuwpoort early next month so I will see if anything is being advertised.

 

Neil

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Thank-you Neil. I contacted the Westfront Museum and they say there will probably be a local commemoration on the 10th July. Once they know fuller details they will e-mail me so I will post them when I know more. Look forward to hear anything you may find too. Sean. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 5/20/2017 at 22:41, Sean B said:

Thank-you Neil. I contacted the Westfront Museum and they say there will probably be a local commemoration on the 10th July. Once they know fuller details they will e-mail me so I will post them when I know more. Look forward to hear anything you may find too. Sean. 

On 7/30/2015 at 12:13, Ravrick said:
On 5/20/2017 at 22:41, Sean B said:

Thank-you Neil. I contacted the Westfront Museum and they say there will probably be a local commemoration on the 10th July. Once they know fuller details they will e-mail me so I will post them when I know more. Look forward to hear anything you may find too. Sean. 

 

Hi Sean I am making  the trip over to Niuport myself on the 10th but cannot find any information for commemoration events,it would be a shame if the occasion passed without some kind of recognition. but then it does seem to be a forgotten episode . Again I would like to thank everyone  in this forum for all the help they have given me with my research. I feel I need to be there on the 10th regardless this forum was the starting point from which i have been able to follow my grandfathers steps throughout his journey through the great war .

Regards John

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On 5/18/2017 at 11:58, Neil Mackenzie said:

Probably none Sean but I hope to be Nieuwpoort early next month so I will see if anything is being advertised.

 

Neil

HI Neil can you help me with my plans for the 10th..I know you are back&forth to Nieuwpoort , is there access to the battlefield and around the river & canal and are there any other places of interest worth seeing ?. my plan is to follow the captured pow's march up to Brugge via westend , can you give me any tips please I Know my grandfather was captured close to the tunnel that was being dug by the Australian troops . A big thank you for all your help it would be great to meet up if you are over for the 10 th.

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Remembering all those who perished one hundred years ago today of the northamptonshire and 2nd bat KRR regiments during the strandfest opperation at Nieuport .especially Guy Boucher.  and Nobby Clarke may they rest in peace

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I'm also remembering them...Richard Abadie, CO of the 2/KRRC, was killed on this day.  :poppy:

 

My great-aunt's fiance John Thomas Hardcastle, a 21/KRRC rifleman who had been badly wounded at Flers on 15 September 1916 and sent to 2/KRRC in early 1917, was in this battle, taken prisoner like hundreds of others from the two battalions. and died on 6 August 'of sickness' at the German military hospital at Deinze.  His descendants, still farming in Yorkshire, will be commemorating him on that day and I shall join them.:poppy:

 

This thread was how I started to find out about both men and all the others who had the misfortune to end up in the Battle of the Dunes.

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Remembering all those of the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the Northamptonshire Regiment who fell on this day one hundred years ago.

 

Not forgotten

:poppy:

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On 07/07/2017 at 08:56, Johnjoeflatley said:

HI Neil can you help me with my plans for the 10th..I know you are back&forth to Nieuwpoort , is there access to the battlefield and around the river & canal and are there any other places of interest worth seeing ?. my plan is to follow the captured pow's march up to Brugge via westend , can you give me any tips please I Know my grandfather was captured close to the tunnel that was being dug by the Australian troops . A big thank you for all your help it would be great to meet up if you are over for the 10 th.

John

 

So sorry I missed this. I hope you had a good trip out there on the anniversary. I have sent you a PM.

 

The location of the tunnel is now in the middle of a Belgian military base and, as we found out last month - they don't like you stopping outside.

 

Neil

Edited by Neil Mackenzie
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I know your post was written a long time ago, Bob (27 January), but have only just come across it, for whatever reason.

Most informative and thank you for taking the time to post it.

Edited by nigelcave
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Nigel (good guess?);

 

There is a lot of disinformation floating about about German FW, which started even before the UK suffered its first attack with this weapon, continued during and after the British employed the weapon, and after the war till at least the 1930's, when Foulkes published his book, repleat with staggering lies. His sidekick in this was his Yank counterpart. 

 

The German Feidler was an engineer working on spraying heavy liquids (paint) when he started working on spraying flaming oil, soon obtaining patents and getting the German Army to start testing the devices. Reddemann, later CO of the FW regiment, started his work, aided by being head of the Leipzig fire department, and having been able to demonstrate the concept to the Kaiser on maneuvers in 1907,reportedly. The Brit Livens was a good engineer, but most Allied designs were really awful, design-wise. 

 

If if you want more info on this, or on Strandfest ("Beach Festival " or "Beach Party"), just ask. I know a bit about the operation. 

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