Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Battle of the Dunes, July 1917

Hugh Pattenden

Recommended Posts

Bob, Cnock.

Somehow missed your replies back in June. Sorry for not responding. Interesting stuff, indeed. Good map posted by Keith, too.

I've now just (Tuesday 25th) got the War Diary of the 1st Northamptons for the period. I shall post it up once I get the chance. There is the usual diary plus a narrative.

I think the typed narrative came out ok but the WD may have been filmed in "shaky-camera-o-vision" . I'll have to double-check later.


What sort of excuse is that! ;) We'll be glad to see what they say when you have the time.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

To add a personal touch to the action, the 14 trio of Cpl T.H.Barnes, 1st Northamptons KIA 10/7/17. 22 years old, from Newborough, Peterborough. Phil B



Link to comment
Share on other sites

markleecarter, steve, phil b,

Thank You for the additional info.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

A picture of Corporal Barnes from the Peterborough Advertiser 22-9-1917, Page 2.


Apologies for the poor quality. The Microfilm copies aren't great, the printer-copier isn't either, and the originals "can't be handled".


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Extracts from the 1st Northamptons War Diary for the 10th July 1917.

(I also copied the War Diary but the pics haven't picked up the pencil writing well. I'll have a go at transcribing. There is also an Intelligence Report from the 9-7-1917 which you might be interested in...)





Edited by Stebie9173
Image reattached
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Page 2




Page 3 (a bit fuzzy but readable - sorry)



Edited by Stebie9173
Images reattached
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Page 4





Edited by Stebie9173
Image reattached
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Here is the first installment of the 11btn Border Regiment War Diary covering this operation. I'll post the rest when I've finished typing it up:

War Diary

11th Battn, The Border Regt.


Date: 10pm 10/7/17

Hour: 10pm

Composition of Battalion on morning of July 10th 1917.

Battn Head-Quarters. C.O. Lt. Col A.C Girdwood DSO.

Second in Command T/Capt. J.B lowthian. M.C.

Adjutant. T/Lt T.H. Hodgkinson

Asst/Adjt. T/2/Lt Cook-Gray

Intelligence Officer. 2/Lt. J. Malley-Martin

Bombing Officer 2/Lt. Gillespie

Signalling Officer T/2/Lt J. Jamie

M.O. Capt. Anderson R.A.M.C

Chaplain. Capt C. Langdon

Artillery Liason Officer 2/Lt Coke

Battery R.F.A.

O.C. “A” Coy. T/Capt. A.E. Greenhill. M.C.

T/2.Lt H.C.H. Lane

T/2.Lt R.E. Pigott

T/2.Lt. F.E. Brandon

O.C. “B” Coy. T/Capt. C.H. Walker. M.C.

2.Lt M. Smythe

T/2.Lt A.G. Sharp

T/2.Lt. J.R. McDonald

O.C. “C” Coy. T/Capt. J. Ross M.C.

2.Lt G. Rowsell

T/2.Lt J. Cherry

T/2.Lt. I. Benson

O.C. “D” Coy. T/2.Lt. J.B. Albon-Hope

T/2.Lt R.M. Martin

T/2.Lt W.J. Fernie

T/2.Lt. G.R (?) McDonald

[signature of J Malley-Martin]

Place: Line S.W of LOMBARTZYDE

Date: 10/7/17


6.am A heavy bombardment of our sector commenced about 6. am. The 1st & second lines were heavily ‘strafed’ with “minnenwerfers” also.

7.40 am The following message was sent to the 97th Inf Bde at 7.40am. Begins “Casualties last night 3 wounded aaa This morning 1 killed aaa Communication broken with both Coys in front line aaa when bombardment ceases will send further information aaa” Ends.

8.am At 8am the following message was received from O.C. “C” Coy (Coy holding 1st&2nd lines Right half of Battn Front i.e. nose trench & nose support.) “I have been endeavouring to get a message trough from here since 6.5 am. The wires are down & signallers are using the lamp but no reply from our artillery yet. We have been continuously ‘strafed’ since before 6am this morning with ‘heavies’ etc. Please put punishment scheme X into operation at once”. (Sd) J. Ross Capt. O.C. “C” Coy 7.5.am”

8.30am T/2/Lt Cook-Gray was sent by the C.O to make his way to the front line Coys (C&D) in order to determine the exact state of affairs & the condition of the line. The shelling at this time was gradually getting heavier.

10am At 10 am the following message was received from 2/Lt Cook-Gray. “I have reached and examined the second line. On the right the trench is somewhat bashed about but is not in really bad condition. There has been a continuous bombardment particularly with heavy T.M.Bs since 6am this morning. 5 casualties are reported at present. Our 18lb shells are dropping short. I don’t think there is any mistake doubt of that this time.” 10 am. “PS” 18lbs have just smashed in a M.G.C dug out in our second line.” The bombardment increased in intensity about 10am All communication with Bde & O.Ps was broken. 2/Lt Coke R.F.A. Went out to OP to try and get line through but was unsuccessful.

10.40am The following message was sent to “SOME” by pigeons (2) at 10.40am. “Some 18lbs falling short in no 2 Battalion sector”.

11.24am Message received from Brigade begins:- Report by runner situation whether first and support lines are intact and whether supporting companies are alright aaa Also state of PUTNEY and VAUXHALL bridges. 11.24am Ends.

11.24am Following message received from Brigade at 11.24am. Begins:- 1 Coy SPIN will reinforce no 1 Battn 1 Coy SPUR will reinforce no 2 Battn aaa. PUTNEY bridge can only be used. aaa SPOT & SPED will stiffen up third line NASAL trench aaa Coys SPIN & SPUR to move immediately upon receipt of these orders and come under orders of no1 and 2 Battns respectively acknowledge”. Ends.

11.50am Following message sent to Brigade at 11.50am Begins:- “Cannot get any information as to 1st & 2nd line aaa They are being very heavily strafed aaa Hostile fire slackening aaa Will send off runners and report as soon as possible.” Ends.

11.55am Following message sent to A&B Coys (in support). Begins:- A and B Coy will be ready to turn out at a moments notice – leading respective garrisons – acknowledge.” Ends

11.45am To O.C no1 & 2 Coys:- “Please state in writing (& duplicate) condition of line and estimate casualties.” Ends.

12.5pm Following message rec’d from O.C. “A”Coy: Begins:- “Casualties nil. Heavy T.M. Bombardment of front line. Minnenwerfer firing from M22B 85.40. Right of Red tiled house on right of sector.” Ends

12.25pm Mss. Recd from brigade reads. “Keep your visual open to SHAG aaa The slightest sign of action on part of enemy infantry send S.O.S aaa Brigade are out of touch with SHAG” Ends

1.0pm Following message sent to OC “B” Coy. “Following message sent to you at 11.55am is repeated:- A&B Coys will be ready to turn out a t a moments notice – leading respective garrisons. Acknowledge and give any information you have with estimated casualties.” Ends Please report to B.H.Q at once and also send 3 men who know the way to D Coy Hdqs to BHQ to act as runners.” Message ends.

1.5pm Enemy fire slackened & ‘plane flew over very low (200ft) apparently to examine extent of damage. This machine was engaged by our own M.Gs & Lewis guns. During this lull a new kind of gas shell was used causing everyone to sneeze – it also affects the eyes & throat, & in some cases was followed by violent sickness.

1.25pm Bombardment increased to original intensity

1.45pm Mss recd from Brigade. “A second company from SPIN & SPUR will reinforce no1 & 2 Battns respectively aaa Companies to come under orders of nos 1 & 2 Battns respectively aaa Companies to move immediately.”

2.5pm Following message recd by OC B Coy from 2/Lt Smythe who was sent with two platoons to reinforce 2nd line. “Arrived 3rd line 2.5pm – M.Smyhte 2/Lt.”

2.25pm Mss. Recd from OC B Coy enclosing above “My two platoons have arrived at 3rd line at 2.5pm. Enemy barrarging between 3rd & 2nd lines with heavies” Ends.

2.30pm Following message recd from OC “C” Coy. “ The whole three lines are under a deadly barrage. The last word I had from my front line was satisfactory, but that is some time ago. At first lull I shall endeavour to get news of that line. Owing to smoke of shells lamp signal is useless. Cook-Gray will explain situation fully. My support and reserve platoons have had a rough barrage but communication is impossible. Can you let me have any fresh orders or mess.” Ends.

“ A copy of message recd from OC B Coy at 2.25pm sent to Brigade.

Message recd by OC B Coy from 2/Lt Smythe:- “Second and first lines held by us about 15 in 2nd 22 in 1st both are knocked to hell almost flat. Shall I take company on to 2nd or stay in the third line aaa. Im sharp hit in two places and a fair number of casualties in no 5 plat.” Ends.

2.45pm Mss recd from Bde. “Battle patrol must hold front line whether demolished or not aaa”.

2.50pm Mss sent to OC “B” Coy. “Your note received. Patrols are to go forward to 2nd line and report aaa Brigade instructs Battle patrols must hold front line whether demolished or not aaa. Have you seen anything of D Coy? Ends.

3.00pm Two Coys 17 HLI arrived to reinforce.

3.30pm Lull in bombardment. Enemy plane again flew over to reconnoitre. Gas shells used

4.5pm Following mss recd from OC “C” Coy. “ Front line very badly smashed now. Right half completely wiped out. Second line very badly knocked about. From CHQ to NOSE AVENUE non existent. Third line receiving particular attention and badly knocked about. Comms trenches many blown in & always shelled. Approx casualties about 40. The shelling is very heavy throughout & continually on 1st 2nd & 3rd lines & comm. Trenches. I have 2 officers in line now & have arranged with Rowsell to signal from 1st line to 2nd line, where I have my signaller on the look out. My signal lamp is still OK & I shall keep in touch with you OP. Cook-Gray & 2 of my runners left for B.H.Q about 3pm. I shall be glad to get any news. The shelling is the bally limit. I do not like it. We are lying low & I hope all will be well. I hope it will finish soon. I understand D all still there as M Ridgway has just turned up from there, martin is slightly wounded” Ends.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

But the odds were too heavy for the ultimate issue to be in doubt. On the left, the enemy had forced their way through the 60th, who still continued to fight on in a manner that was worthy of their regiment. Passing behind the Northamptonshires’ lines, the Germans attacked their battalion headquarters from the rear. Indeed, the first intimation the officers in the headquarters dug out had of the launching of the attack was the appearance of several enemy at the mouth of the ventilation shaft. Bombs were hurled down this shaft and down the main entrance, several of the headquarters signallers being severely wounded. Lieutenant Chisholm at once began to destroy the more important documents in his possession, while Lieutenant-Colonel Tollemache at first declined to surrender, and wished to fight it out to a finish. Fortunately he broke his revolver, and was consequently unable to carry out his intention, for the position was hopeless, and no other course than to surrender was open to the occupants of the dug-out. Describing this incident, an officer of the battalion writes: “In several English newspapers graphic accounts had been given of the manner in which the headquarters officers were killed whilst standing back to back firing their revolvers at the enemy. It may be said at once that these tales were untrue. The officers in question and the battalion to which they belonged have alike made for themselves too good a reputation for there to be any attempt to bolster it up by fiction.”

After the capture of headquarters the enemy bombed the regimental aid post, several of its occupants being hit and the rest surrendering. The same party took Captain Aylett’s men in the rear and turned a machine gun on them. After most of his followers had been killed and his two Lewis guns put out of action, Captain Aylett and the few survivors surrendered. Second-Lieutenant Cowley was badly wounded by a bomb before resistance ceased in this quarter. Elsewhere, too, the Germans gradually overpowered our resistance, but it was not until two hours after the attack was launched that weight of numbers finally prevailed. With the exception of the nine other ranks who succeeded escaping by swimming the canal, every one of the Northamptonshires who were in the line on July 10th were killed or captured. The list of dead included Lieutenant Heather, and Second-Lieutenants G H Smith and J H S Symons, whilst Lieutenant-Colonel Tollemache, Captain Aylett, Captain E Hayes, and Second-Lieutenants Chisholm and McAnally were amongst those taken prisoner.

The Germans have often been censured, and rightly censured, for their callous inhumanity to British wounded and prisoners. It is only just to say that the conduct of the German Marine Division on this occasion shows that there were exceptions to this rule. The testimony of those who returned from captivity was that on July 10th the enemy treated their prisoners, wounded and unwounded, in a humane and generous manner.

It was long before any details of this disaster reached the remainder of the battalion, and for many weeks the relatives of those who were missing lingered in an agony of doubt as to what had happened to them. Most of those that escaped could give no lucid or coherent account of what had taken place. The most detailed information that was received for some time was the narrative of Sergeant Mansfield, the battalion scout sergeant, who escaped across the Geleide Creek and informed the battalion on the right of the Northamptonshires of the situation. The commanding officer of this battalion thereupon formed a defensive flank to check the farther advance of the enemy. Sergeant Mansfield received the D.C.M. for his services, and Sergeant Cope, a survivor who took part in the stand made by “C” Company, was awarded the Military Medal.

Source: The Northamptonshire Regiment 1914-1918, Auth.: Northamptonshire Regimental History Committee. Published 1932. 366pp., folding map in end-pocket. Pages 192-200.



Nearly four years after you put this up, I am grateful to you for giving me a clue towards solving (I think) a puzzle I have concerning the commanding officer of the 2nd battalion KRRC, Lt-Col R N Abadie DSO, who died at Nieuport on 10 July and is commemorated on the memorial there (body not found). I am doing some research on the Abadie family (father and four sons, all soldiers, RN the last to die, who are commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral and in Eastbourne on the family grave) but am generally ignorant on military matters so please forgive any gaffes.

Initially there was a notice in the Times on 21 July about him and Lt Col Tollemache entitled 'Two Missing Colonels'. In the record of him provided to me by his school, Charterhouse, it says: ' Cornered by Germans he shot five with his revolver before being killed at the Battle of Nieuport 10 July 1917. ' On the other hand if that were true you would think he would have been posthumously decorated, wouldn't you? He was not, though he had previously been MID 3x and was DSO in 1916. Now I see that the similar story is completely untrue as far as the Northants officers were concerned and I assume that the same applies to Abadie? From what this account says, Tollemache was taken prisoner and as he doesn't seem to be listed as a CWGC casualty he may have survived to tell the tale? I suppose the KRRC must have an account similar to this - perhaps in the National Archives at Kew? I hope you and others who took part in this discussion are still there and would be very grateful for any suggestions.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a reasonable account of the action in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle of 1917. If you need it transcribed let me know.



I would be very interested in this, if the offer's still open four years later! As stated in my previous post, I am especially interested in Lt-Col Abadie. I've read the account by Robert Dunlop on Operation Hush on the Long Long Trail website and the KRRC website, but if the account you have gives any more detail I would very much like to see it. As I said in my previous post I would like to know how he died, as it seems other HQ officers were taken prisoner.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lieutenant Colonel Tollemache did indede survive and was a POW until the end of the war.

I have recently photographed the Brigade report from their War Diary which also contains a report by Captain Humphrey Taylor of the 2nd KRRC in a letter to his father, both of which mention the moment when Colonel Abadie was last seen, the Brigade report giving quite a lot of detail. captain Taylor's reported is limited by the fact that he received a head wound early in the battle, but he still gives plenty of detail.

And, yes, both reports mention Colonel Abadie fighting with revolver in hand when he was last seen. I suspect that it was this that was erroneuously credited to the Northamptons.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

After the attack of 10/7/1917:

view from the east bank IJzer Canal towards Nieuport Bath



Link to comment
Share on other sites


I would be very interested in this, if the offer's still open four years later! As stated in my previous post, I am especially interested in Lt-Col Abadie. I've read the account by Robert Dunlop on Operation Hush on the Long Long Trail website and the KRRC website, but if the account you have gives any more detail I would very much like to see it. As I said in my previous post I would like to know how he died, as it seems other HQ officers were taken prisoner.



I'm sure I posted a transcription of the KRRC Chronicle article (plus its map) in another Topic on Nieuport Bains that has come and gone in the interim!

If you do a search on Nieuport and my user name, you should turn it up.



[Edit: did a quick look myself and although the map is there it looks like I e-mailed the scanned article to the various posters - not a transcript. PM me your e-mail address and I'll send you a copy.

I still recommend you do the search though - you'll find much additional useful material from Steve and myself.]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hello guys,

Would any of you have any info on the - 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (part of 96 Brigade of 32 Division) at this time, as I have a great uncle who was Killed in Action on 18/9/17 age 24, Memorial: Coxyde Military Cemetry, Belgium.

Martin McKenzie- Private, 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (formerly 24803, 8th Royal Hussars). No. 40617 enlisted: Manorhamilton, born in Ballina Co. Mayo.

thanks guys ....and great reading in this thread


Link to comment
Share on other sites

German casualties of attack 10/7/1917




Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought I would transfer some transcripts of WO161 Prisoner Reports from another Topic to this one:

A prisoner of war report of a Northamptonshire Regiment man taken POW at the Dunes (only a small % still survive) shows the route into captivity of most of the Northamptonshire Regiment POWs following the Battle of the Dunes:

Name, Rank, No., and Regiment : Smith, F., Corporal, 31254. 1st Northampton Regiment.

Home address: Police Station, Kettering, Northants.

Place and date of capture: Nieuport, 10th July, 1917

Nature of wound, if any: Not wounded.

Age and occupation before the War: 20 ; electrical engineer.

Journey – July 10-12, 1917

On 10th July 1917, at Nieuport. The Germans surprised us, got round our flank and took battalion headquarters first, and then got eight of us who were in support.

First night we were taken to Middelkerke, and all the prisoners were collected here in one big building. We got here about 8 p.m. There were about 700, including those wounded who could not walk. We lay about on the floor with no food. The wounded were not attended to.

About 3 a.m. on the 11th we were made to march to Ostend, a distance of about 12 kilometres, without a halt, but were not ill treated.

Bruges – 12-16 July, 1917

We arrived at Bruges at about midnight and were put into a big German barracks on the top storey, where we lay on the floor on some stuff which looked like seaweed, but was not

At 6.30 a.m. next morning, the 12th, we were given some soup. After that some of us got a bath, and clothes fumigated; and the others got it at another place in the town later on the same day.

We were then collected into the Town Hall, and all steel helmets taken from us and ordinary Belgian civilian caps substituted. Up to now the officers had had the same fund as us. They did not march with us but arrived at the same places.

At Bruges, they were sent away by train somewhere and we did not see them again.

On this day the whole of the party, with the exception of about 25 men, of whom I was one, were sent by train to Dendermonde. I and the 25 were kept for information purposes, and kept at the Town Hall until 16th July, We were well treated and had good beds to lie on and were properly fed, having the same food as the Germans, who were still marines.

Journey – July 16, 1917

At last, on about 16th July, we were sent by train to Dendermonde. The journey tasted seven or eight hours – no complaints.

Dendermonde, July 16 – Sept. 5, 1917 (1)

There were about 700 or 800 prisoners, all captured at Nieuport, at Dendermonde. It is situated between Ghent and Antwerp. I do not know the name of the Commandant, they kept changing ; also the guards, who were mostly convalescents, and soon as soon as they were fit were sent to the front. About four different lots of guards came and went while we were there; they were old men.

We were in barracks, consisting of two storeys and a domed roof. There were 100 of us in each room and we were very crowded. We lay on the floor on shavings, touching each other.; the ventilation was bad and there were no heating arrangements. Washing facilities were alright, but no soap nor towels were given to us for the first month. We were locked up in our rooms day and night, and only allowed out for exercise in a yard for about two hours each day.

The sanitary arrangements consisted of large urine tubs placed inside the rooms and we had to empty them when full, except at night, when the sentries would not allow tins to be done, so the conditions of the room can be imagined.

There was no employment, but the Germans tried to force us to drill, but we would not.

The food was as follows: - Morning, a slice of black bread, ¾ inch thick, coffee substitute; next some hot water with a few carrots and mangel wurzels, and that was all for about six weeks. Each day we applied to the Commandant for more food, and he said he could not do it, and that it was our Navy’s fault.

The guards were getting their ordinary rations. There were not enough bowls to go round, and the consequence was that it took about four hours to issue out the soup; this happened every day. About every third day we got a tiny piece of sausage with our bread.

After about six weeks, owing to our constant complaints, the Commandant said he would give us more soup, but all that happened was that he divided the ration into two and gave us half in the middle of the day and the other half at night. The consequence was that we soon got into a terribly weak condition.

The doctor insisted on our taking some exercise round the yard, but after going for about a quarter of an hour we got so exhausted we could go no further.

There was a kind of canteen run by the cook who charged the most exorbitant prices—tobacco, 10d. a packet; 4 rusks, 2.50 m.; apples, 4½d. a lb. After a bit we were allowed to run a kind of shop of our own, i.e., two of our fellows supplied the capital and Germans bought the articles from the town, and they were thus able to sell to us at half the price of the original canteen.

The Germans supplied us with two shirts of compressed paper which only stood washing three times, one towel, and bandages for our feet.

We could smoke outside when we had anything to smoke.

There was no epidemic.

There was a small room for dressings for the sick in which there was a doctor every day for an hour, and he was assisted by our R.A.M.G. orderlies. I never was treated.

We had no religious services.

The first letter allowed was after we had arrived about a week, and we were not allowed to put any address on it. It consisted simply of a card saying "I am quite well- a prisoner of war in Germany — will "give address later." It was a month later before the next card was allowed, and on it were the same words, except the address was written Limburg-am-Lahn. We, of course, got no parcels.

The discipline was strict, but there was no actual cruelty. For punishments we got confined to cells, or if we did not stand up when a German officer went by we got 24 hours' cells and no food.

The Dutch Ambassador did not visit us.

We were sent three times into Ghent by train for a bath and to have our clothes fumigated. Once the Belgians were allowed to send us in some stewed pears, but this was the only extra food we got the whole time we were there.

Journey – Sept. 5, 1917

About 5th September 1917 we were sent by train to Dulmen.

Dulmen III, Sept 6-18, 1917 (2)

At Dulmen we were put into Compound No, III and kept there 15 days, during which time we were inoculated eight times and vaccinated once for various diseases.

Journey – Sept. 18-20, 1917

I and 700 British were sent to Lechfeld Lager.

Lechfeld, Sept 20, 1917 - (3)

Lechfeld is in Bavaria, and it consists of a large camp divided into compounds, some of stone and some of wood; the stone ones were built for the French prisoners at the time of the Franco-German War. We were first in the wood ones and later in the stone ones, but went back to the wooden ones. They are of the usual type but bigger than British ones.


A good percentage of the Northamptons would have ended up at Lechfeld Lager (Camp), but not necessarily all. The 700 men transferred to Lechfeld were not necessarily the same 700 who came in from the Dunes. There were certainly Dunes POWs held at Bayreuth camp.

The International Committee of the Red Cross holds details of many POW movements and can be contacted for details on an individual soldier here.


See also:


(1) In middle of the the Gent-Antwerp-Brussells "triangle".

(2) About 50 miles, NNE of Dusseldorf.

(3) 10 Miles south of Augsburg, 25 miles west of Munich/Munchen.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another WO161 Prisoner of War debriefing suggests that the wounded men would not have been with the main group of POWs and thus less likely to end up at Lechfeld...

Name, Rank, No. and Regiment.

Warren, Ralph, Private, No. 43370. 1st Northants.

Home Address.

Great Hockham, Norfolk.

Place and Date of Capture.

Nieuport Bains, 10th July 1917.

Nature of Wound, if any.

Shrapnel wound, right elbow.

Ostend Hosp. July 10-16, 1917.

Taken to field dressing station and wound dressed, and then taken to Ostend. A cellar in a house was used as a hospital. Wound dressed. I was treated kindly. Stayed there until 16th July.

Went to Bruges partly by train and partly by wagon.

Bruges Hosp. July 16-18, 1817.

I was taken to a college at Bruges used as a hospital. I was well treated. Stayed there 12 days. The food was better there than at the subsequent hospitals. I was not allowed to write at Ostend and was only allowed to write one letter from Bruges. I sent it to Great Hockham. I had two operations under chloroform.

Journey. July 28-30,1917.

I went to Lubeck on 28th July, arrived on the 30th July. Treated all right on the journey.

Lubeck Hosp. July 30-Nov. 6 1917.

Plenty to eat, but food not very good. I underwent two Operations, both under chloroform. Dr. Christian skilful and kind. Very short of medicines. Very few bandages, and nearly all paper bandages. The padding all paper, as there was no cotton wool. I never received any parcels containing tobacco or cigarettes, although many were sent. I received other parcels. No religious services.

Gustrow. Nov. 9, 1917-Feb 10, 1918.

Went to Gustrow on 6th November by train. Dr. Krehr very good and kind. Was told by Private Phelps, of 1st London Scottish, that Dr. Krehr had bought medicine out of his own pocket to give to prisoners. He is not an Army doctor.

Food very bad. Only soup and bread. No meat and very little bread, principally made from potatoes. Englishmen were not badly treated, but the Italians were. I saw the guards butting thera with the butts of their rifles, and kicking them. I was in two lazarettes at Gustrow; in the second was Dr. Krasman, who paid very little attention to the prisoners and ill-treated the Italians. I saw him strike prisoners in the face and stomach because they did not understand what he wanted them to do. There were only two English prisoners in that barrack where I was.

They appeared to be short of all articles of food except potatoes.

The sentries were always trying to buy any foods that came in the parcels, I have been offered 7 marks for a pound tin of bully beef.

They would also ask if we would sell them boots or underclothing.

I was offered 100 marks for a pair of boots I received from England.

All the men at Ostend and Nieuport and all round about there were naval men, including the doctors. The unwounded prisoners are very crowded at Gustrow. No fires throughout the winter. Many of them were working behind the German front lines from May to October.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Report of a severely wounded Rifleman:

Report No. 1443

Name. Rank. No. and Regiment: Brown, William, Rifleman, No. 1431, 2dnd K.R.R.C.

Home Address: 43, Park Street, New Langton. Nottingham.

Place and Date of Capture: Nieuport. 10th July 1917.

Nature of Wound, if any: Wounded in left leg from explosion of hand grenade; leg since amputated below hip.

Age 39. Labourer to contractors.

At Nieuport, before I received my wound which disabled me, I was one of five British in a long tunnel on the extreme left of our support line. The other men with me were two Australian Tunnellers and two men of the King's Royal Rifles (I don't know the others' names).

Germans were bombing into one end of the tunnel, and spraying liquid fire into the other end. We were near the middle of the tunnel and bolted out through an opening near the middle, so avoiding both the bombs and the tire.

I did not see or hear of German Red Cross men using the fire. Private Thomas Wilson, of my battalion. A Company, who was at Gustrow Camp with me, and is still there, was burnt in the arms by liquid fire in (as he told me) the same tunnel. He said nothing to me of German Red Cross men using the fire.

I was wounded about 8 p.m. and captured, and, after being placed by the Germans in one of the hammocks slung on a pole in which they carry their wounded, was, by the order of a German officer, picked up by two of our men who had been taken unwounded, to be carried to a dressing station in the German lines. We had only just started when a shell burst by us. killing one of my two bearers and destroying three fingers on the hands of the other, who then, at my own suggestion, left me. I lay on the crest of a sand dune.

Shortly after being left I saw a German officer approaching. I knew he was an officer by his uniform and the sword he wore—but did not draw—but could not tell his rank or regiment. He was in field-grey uniform. He carried an electric torch in one hand and a revolver in the other. He approached within 15 yards of me. There were other British wounded lying about near me. I could see them wriggling on the ground or moving their limbs. I did not know any of them, and could not distinguish their regiments, but I knew some of the 1st North Hants wounded were near me.

I watched the German officer for nearly half-an-hour. He passed along among the British wounded, and as he passed each he stooped down over the man, as though examining him to see whether he was alive or dead, and I saw him point his revolver downwards at the body of one of them, and fired it. I Raw the flash and heard the report. From that wounded man he passed on, and I saw the same thing repeated twice. Three times he fired at three different men on the ground. I saw three flashes of his revolver and heard three reports.

He then came to me, stooped over me, and stirred with his foot, apparently to see whether I was alive or dead. I shammed death, and, muttering something which I did sot understand, he passed on.

Almost immediately afterwards he passed beyond another sand dune, which hid him from my sight. The bombardment broke out again just then, and if there were any more shots from his revolver, the noise of the bombardment prevented me hearing their report.

Some men of the 1st North Hants Regiment were lying near. I don't know their names. They may have seen what the German officer did.

Note by Examiner — The following statement by Brown may, perhaps, be regarded as in some measure tending to confirm the story told by James Macbeath, Private, 90342. R.A.M.C., 2nd Field Ambulance, 1st Division (No. 1442), of the use of liquid fire by German Red Cross men. Brown's statement shows, at least, that liquid fire was used by Germans at Nieuport on 10th duly 1917 to drive British out of a tunnel, and Brown locates the tunnel in the same position as that described by Macbeath.

At 5.30 a.m. on 11th July German stretcher-bearers picked me up and carried me to a German dug-out used as a first-aid hospital, and from there back through the German lines to a chapel used as a lazaret, just outside Ostend, arriving there 7.30 a.m. on 11th July.

Ostend Hospital July 11 – Aug 1, 1917

At Ostend I was placed in a chapel used as a lazaret in a suburb of Ostend, of which they refused to tell me the name when I enquired. Here I stayed three weeks—11th July to 1st August. Bread and coffee was given me on arriving there, Ostend was being frequently raided by British airmen. On one occasion ten German artillerymen, bombed by them, were brought into the lazarette, and I heard others were wounded. Every time there was a British air raid our hospital attendants bolted.

In this Ostend lazarette were about 30 British and 100 German wounded.

My wounds were here redressed daily. I was treated well here. The worst thing in my treatment was the food :—

Substitute for coffee, no milk or sugar.

Black bread.

Raw bacon twice a week.

Cabbage and vegetable food.

They had no soap in the lazarette. I washed without it.

I don't know doctors' names. They did their best for me.

My leg was amputated below the hip. I had ether. I slept in a wooden bunk with mattresses made of seaweed and two blankets.

I saw no cruelty to prisoners.

I left Ostend the sixth day after my leg was amputated.

Bruges Marine Hospital, Aug 1 – 6, 1917

From Ostend I was taken, in the first week of August 1917, by ordinary train with German wounded (all of us treated alike on the journey), to Bruges Marine Hospital, where I remained five days. This hospital was nearly as big as King George Hospital, and had wounded of all nationalities, including German.

At Bruges Hospital were two women trained nurses, who treated us decently. I only had medicine for a cold. There was no soap in the hospital. The food was better than at Ostend. We had barley and mashed potatoes here. There was no difference in the treatment of nationalities.

I don't know the names of the doctors; they were good doctors, and did their best for us.

I had no operation at Bruges.

I still had my own uniform. I was supplied with a hospital robe in the wards.

I had a good bed, with proper blankets and sheets. They were not changed, as I was there for five days only.

Hamburg, Fuhlsbuttel Reserve Lazerette. Aug 6, 1917 – Jan 27, 1918

From Bruges I was taken on 6th August 1917 to Hamburg, Fuhlsbuttel Reserve, Lazarette 7. I remained here from 6th August 1917 to 27th January 1918. This was a prison, of which part was used as a hospital. There were 92 beds, with British, French, Belgian, Russian, and Italian prisoners.

The food here was worse than at Bruges:—


Substitute for coffee.

Black bread (no butter or margarine).


A basin of cabbage (the sort usually given to cattle). Sometimes two potatoes in it.


One piece of brown bread. Cabbage or Carrots.

On Thursdays three hard biscuits instead of bread.

I was half-starved until parcels from outside began to come for me. After that I never eat the hospital rations.

Dr Rosen was a decent follow. He had had a practice in London. He did what he could for us. When we asked him for more food he said he could do no more for us, in view of the English blockade.

At Fuhlsbuttel I was some months before I received any parcels. The first was my “emergency” parcel, despatched on 2nd September, which did not reach me for a month or more after that date. After that they came irregularly.

Parcels were opened by a German corporal in the presence of the addressee, Tinned stuffs were taken out and placed in a locker, labelled with addressee's name, and the contents were subsequently drawn by the addressee once a day, the corporal emptying and removing the tins and examining the contents. I never missed anything from my parcels. The corporal had no opportunity to abstract anything. On one occasion, however, my family sent me some money (5s.) which never reached me.

Some men missed things, such as soap and tobacco, of which both were in demand by the Germans.

No articles were prohibited except English newspapers.

We were allowed to write one letter and one post card weekly. My wife says she wrote me many letters to Hamburg. I only received three.

Except that the hospital rations were a starvation diet. I have no complaint to make of my treatment at Fuhlsbuttel. I suffered no cruelty, The Russians and Italians had a bad time. The former got knocked about, but they “asked for it."

The Italians had only just come there before I left.

I kept pretty good friends with the hospital attendants, who were easily bribed with a little tea or fat or tobacco.

Punishment was by confinement in the cellars, e.g., three days' confinement for refusing to obey orders, &c. I saw no excessive punishments or ill-effects, from it.

The Dutch Consul visited the hospital. He took care to give us an opportunity to talk to him alone. He ordered the corporal out of the room. I saw no changes resulting from his visits.

We had exercise in the courtyard (about 200 yards round) in summer. We were not allowed out in the winter.

From Fuhlsbuttel I was taken on 27th January 1918 by ordinary train 10 hours from Hamburg to Gustrow Camp, in Mecklenburg.

Gustrow. Jan 27 – Feb 18, 1918

This witness is a man of very fair intelligence, and, so far as I could form an opinion, reliable. He made his statement with moderation and apparent fairness.

He told the story of the German officer shooting wounded men in a manner which gave me the impression that at any rate he himself believed he had seen what he described. I regret I omitted to ask him whether it was possible that he was himself light-headed (from the pain of his wounds) at the time. He suggested that the German may have shot the men in mercy to end their sufferings (?)


Staple Inn, W.C. 1, 2nd March 1918.

Note.—As much of the evidence given by this witness with regard to Gustrow has already been put on record ; it has been omitted from the printed report. The complete evidence is filed in the records of the Committee


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent - thanks for posting these Steve.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


thanks for the info!

British pow marched to Bruges,




Link to comment
Share on other sites


thanks for the info!

British pow marched to Bruges,



Greetings - having read the above account which is incredible I wondered if a photo of Sjt Cope exists ? such actions today surely would result in a VC ?

super Forum ! regards Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello, Scuber.

Yes, I do have a photo of Ben Cope (albeit a print from a microfilm) - from an article in the local papers with him in his uniform with his wife on their wedding.

I shall try and post it later.

Can I ask what your interest is in Ben Cope?

Incidentally, I am sure he is the "Lance-Corporal B Cape" mentioned in a letter by Sgt Yerrell (another Peterborough man) in another post, this one regarding the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9 May 1915.

Sgt Cope's heroics are expanded upon here:



Link to comment
Share on other sites

The hospital at Bruges, where William Brown stayed some days after his leg was amputated at Oostende



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Steve - I have Sjt Cope's medals. I cannot find an 'Introductions' thread to this super Forum - but in brief I have been collecting medals for many years and having recently retired I now have the time to research some of my collection and hopefully be able to contribute to this Forum. As a Peterborough man myself Sjt Cope is my first project. I 've just signed up with Ancestry but alas cannot find his papers but then I am still learning how to search.

kind regards Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...