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Battle of the Dunes, July 1917


Hugh Pattenden
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I suspect that the very tall officer may be Lt. Col. Tollemache.

Incidentally, I have put together a biography of the Colonel, but his marriage arrangements were a little scandalous to say the least (nothing illegal!), so I'm wondering whether to post it here.

Steve.

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Hallo Liz,

the prisoners went from Middelkerke to Ostende, and from Ostend to Bruges

regards,

Cnock

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Liz,

the prisoners left Oostend on 11/7/1917 at noon, so it may be possible that the pic was taken on 12/7/1917 before they went to the railway station

Eddy

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Liz,

the prisoners left Oostend on 11/7/1917 at noon, so it may be possible that the pic was taken on 12/7/1917 before they went to the railway station

Eddy

Thanks, Eddy (how do you do, by the way?!)

That would fit.

Have you seen anything about some prisoners being kept behind the lines after Nieuport? They weren't all in one group, were they?

On the Limburg POW topic thread I mentioned before (EDIT: here's the link, Limburg POW Camp?) Doug Johnson, Mark Brockway and I looked at John Hardcastle's record and it seems that he never went out of Belgium, despite being registered at Limburg in Germany - he died at Notre Dame Military Hospital, Deinze, on Aug 6 'of a sickness'.

I suppose he could have been taken ill on the journey. If you find a photo of that hospital it would be interesting.

Liz

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Hi Liz,

for the moment I am doing fine

the prisoners that could walk were all gathered at Middelkerke

if a picture of notre dame mil hospital at Deinze turns up, I will let know

regards,

Eddy

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I suspect that the very tall officer may be Lt. Col. Tollemache.

Incidentally, I have put together a biography of the Colonel, but his marriage arrangements were a little scandalous to say the least (nothing illegal!), so I'm wondering whether to post it here.

.

The Forum isn't that prudish, is it?

I suppose the question is more whether a Battle topic is the place for biography - I don't see why not myself if the person is one of the main figures in it, as Tollemache is.

I'd be interested.

I might also feel compelled then to share my biography of Col. Abadie, which I haven't exactly written up as I am doing the whole family, but a short one of him alone might be useful. Then we'd have the Two Colonels. As Lt-Col Lewis Butler wrote at the end of his account in the KRRC Chronicle :

'Nieuport les Bains will remain a bond of union between the two Battalions which fought there, and a glorious yet sad memory in their history.'

Liz

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Hi Liz,

for the moment I am doing fine

the prisoners that could walk were all gathered at Middelkerke

if a picture of notre dame mil hospital at Deinze turns up, I will let know

regards,

Eddy

Hi Eddy,

Thanks very much, it would be great if you did find one.

Somewhere I have got the idea that only 700, about half the prisoners, were at Middelkerke...but you are sure they all were? Is it mentioned in the German records? I keep having to re-read this thread!

Liz

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This is an outstanding thread - what the forum is all about. I have an interest via a family member in a Sergeant in the 216th Coy MGC who served as part of 1st Division. He died of wounds on the 11th July 1917 - any leads on the role of the 216th in the Battle?

Simon

PITT, FREDERICK BLANCHETT Initials: F B Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Serjeant Regiment/Service: Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) Unit Text: 216th Coy. Age: 27 Date of Death: 11/07/1917 Service No: 26539 Additional information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Pitt, of Spring Croft, Hassocks, Sussex; husband of Lena Violet Pitt, of 25, Friars Walk, Lewes, Sussex. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: 1. I. 32. Coxyde Military Cemetery

Simon

I have just been rereading the thread trying to put together various aspects of what happened and I see no one answered your question. I can't tell you anything definite about the role of the 216th Coy MGC in the battle, but would like to clarify the situation regarding your Sergeant Pitt. Perhaps you've found out more about him?

His records on Ancestry say he died of wounds on 12th July (not 11th as CWGC has it) but that he was wounded on 9th.

The KRRC Chronicle says that there was German artillery fire 'along our whole line up to the night of 9th-10th' and there were at least 70 casualties. This seems to mean 2/KRRC alone, as the author, Lt. Col Butler, says the Northamptonshire Regiment 'probably sustained as many casualties'.

I wonder if the fact that Sgt Pitt was buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery confirms that he was wounded before the main battle and was either already on the other side of the Yser or was taken there that day, before all the bridges were destroyed, and was thus able to be buried on 12th?

I think Coxyde was some distance behind the front on the Allied side, as the Australian Official History appendix on Nieuport refers to the tunnellers experimenting beforehand on Coxyde Bains.

If we knew where he was positioned at the time of course it would help a great deal.

Can anyone answer the question about where his Coy were? The KRRC report on the operations of 10th July 1917 (by Brigadier GC Kemp, but the typewritten name is crossed out and KELLY written above it - dated 14.7.1917) gives casualties 'not including Machine Gun Company, Trench Mortar Batteries and Tunnelling Company' but doesn't identify them. I know the Tunnelling Company was the 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company, with some British reinforcements, but don't know if this is bound to be the 216th Coy MGC* or there would be more than one. There is also a reference to a Machine Gun Officer. At the time when I photocopied the report at Kew I didn't have the MGC in mind and didn't check earlier parts of the diary for this information.

*EDIT I think so, as he says 'Company', and perhaps you'd generally expect only one.

As a general question, could any man wounded in the main battle on 10th have been buried later by the British, apart from the few who got across the river? Would all the rest have been prisoners of the Germans? That's what the figures suggest.

More questions than answers, I'm afraid, but they may prompt others to reply.

Liz

Edited by Liz in Eastbourne
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Just checked the CWGC details for Coxyde, which I realise you will know about, Simon, but it's just part of my thinking about where the dead were buried before, during (would they have been able to do this?) and after the Battle of the Dunes - in the hope that someone else will know more. An extract:

In June 1917 Commonwealth forces relieved French forces on 6 kilometres of front line from the sea to a point south of Nieuport (now Niewpoort) and held this sector for six month. Coxyde (now Koksijde) was about 10 kilometres behind the front line. The village was used for rest billets and was occasionally shelled, but the cemetery, which had been started by French troops, was reasonably safe. It became the most important of the Commonwealth cemeteries on the Belgian coast and was used at night for the burial of the dead brought back from the front line......

After the Armistice, the remains of 44 British soldiers were brought into the cemetery. Ten of them had been buried in isolated graves...'

(the other 34 were definitely not from the 1st Division at Nieuport).

I don't know what proportion of the dead were, like Abadie, in no known grave and commemorated on the Nieuport Memorial. In Abadie's case, the KRRC Chronicle account says his body was identified by an NCO after his fatal last stand (so this NCO survived to tell the tale?) but as his body was evidently not buried by the British - it being impossible in the circumstances - I assume the rest were not at that time either.

The wounded and others who died later as POWs are another matter, obviously.

Please do correct me, somebody, if my assumptions are wrong.

Liz

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi All,

This is my first posting to this forum. I've been researching a distant second cousin twice removed, Temp 2nd Lt Baillie Chisholm Munro K.R.R.C., and knew he was M.I.A. at Nieuport, but thanks to the most informative postings on this thread now know he was buried when his bunker was bombed. As I understand it, the K.R.R.C. were east of the Yser, having crossed temporary bridges of which three of the four had since been taken out - they came under attack from the German front line further to their east, and at the same time by a German Marine Corp that had outflanked them by moving along the shoreline at low tide to the mouth of the Yser. What interests me is the conflict of opinions between Captain Humphrey Butler who demanded to know why Naval assistance was lacking, when "there was a slight breeze off the shore and that the sea was calm enough to sail a fourteen foot boat", and Lieutenant-General Rawlinson, who made the point that wind off shore would have resulted in the loss of several ships. The question I have is where did the German Marine Corp come from? It's entirely possible of course that they had been ashore for quite some time and marched a mile or so down the coast from German lines, but what if they arrived by sea? If that was the case, then conditions could not have been as windy as Lieutenant-General Rawlinson had suggested.

Baillie deserved better. According to a posting on the Scottish War Memorial Project forum he was injured in action in March 1915 but I'm unable to confirm this one way or the other. Then according to the Supplement to the London Gazette on 19 August 1916 he was injured in three places and received the Military Cross for his efforts. I can only guess this was in the area of High Wood or Wood Lane at the Somme, as the major offensive commenced there on 14 July 1916, and he was definitely there for the final attack on Wood lane on 9 September 1916, having been wounded yet again. He married at Inverness in December of that year while on leave, and fathered a daughter whom he was never to see. His best man at the wedding was his brother John Munro, who was a Lieutenant in the 44th New Brunswick Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was killed at Vimy Ridge on 10 April 1917.

Paul

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Hi Paul,

the Germans came via the beach and not via the sea, it was a very low tide

regards,

Cnock

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Hi Cnock,

Thanks, I appreciate the reply! I had read that they came at low tide before, but being Marines, wondered if landing craft might have been a better option than lugging equipment down the shore from behind their own lines. The British must have had ships nearby for Lieutenant-General Rawlinson to be in fear of losing them, but may have been ill-informed, or may even have had another agenda, to have held back when Captain Butler's interpretation of wind conditions was very different. Whichever way you look at it tactical errors were made, and communication may have been the biggest problem in hindsight with lines cut and carrier pigeons in use.

regards,

Paul

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Paul,

I think Cnock may have inadvertently overlooked your question about where the German Marine Corps came from. The answer is that the whole of the German-held part of the Belgian coast sector, including the ports of Ostend, Bruges and Zeebrugge, was garrisoned throughout the war by the 'Marinekorps Flandern', which also manned the numerous powerful naval gun batteries in that sector, many of which could also be trained to fire on targets on land, as far down the coast as Dunkirk. They were doubtless reinforced and assisted at various times by other German formations, including Army artillery, and Cnock is the man to enlighten you there.

As regards British ships offshore, we are talking about the monitors of the Dover Patrol, which were at that time slow and lumbering vessels that mostly struggled to make headway even in a moderate sea, as a result of which some of them were routinely towed into their bombarding positions off the Belgian coast by destroyers of the DP. They needed to be head-on to the shore, as they had only one heavy gun turret, mounted forward, with a restricted arc of fire. They were always liable to be engaged by the heaviest German coastal batteries, which outranged them, and with a wind blowing onshore and an incoming tide, they also risked drifting into range of the smaller-calibre German batteries ranged directly along the shoreline. As they could not anchor, run astern (to any effect) or be tethered to a destroyer during firing, they ran the further risk, over a prolonged 'shoot', of being drawn inshore to the point of grounding on one of the innumerable offshore sandbanks. None of the other ships available to the Dover Patrol, predominantly older destroyers, had the range to engage inland targets without exposing themselves to the fire of both the heavier and the lighter German coastal batteries.

The Royal Naval Siege Guns, which are my own particular interest, had several batteries of naval guns emplaced onshore on the British side of the Yser, but, as their commanding officer had warned on a number of occasions, they were too 'long range' to fire effectively on targets just beyond the Yser.

Mick

PS Was Captain Humphrey Butler an Army officer? If so, even with experience of sailing in small yachts, he is unlikely to have appreciated the problems that the monitors faced.

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Hi Mick,

Thanks very much for that. Captain Humphrey Butler was Adjutant with 2nd Batallion Kings Royal Rifles, so as you say he might not have been in a position to fully appreciate the big picture - as would Lieutenant-General Rawlinson. Captain Butler qualified his criticisms with the comment "As to the failure of the Naval Squadron to co-operate, we cannot at present speak with certainty, but it is rumoured that the Admiral responsible was "surprised at not getting a request for assistance"!", so while Lieutenant-General Rawlinson either asserted, or was informed, that wind was a problem, the bottom line appears to be that the British ships were hopelessly inadequate, and even had they been in a position to support could not have done so with any degree of accuracy. Captain Butler may have hit the nail on the head with "It is difficult to avoid the inference that the Corps Commander, failing to appreciate the importance of the position and its imminent peril, neglected the measures essential for cooperation and support." His report is most damming (as you would know, I found it on this forum!) and points out that for the position to be tenable for even a few hours would be impossible without artillery fire and close co-operation between Naval and Military forces. Aside from the Navy's inability to respond, the artillery on the west bank of the Yser appears to have been either out of position, or too close to the action to safely discriminate, because they also failed to respond. In hindsight it may have been a poor command decision to place troops in such a precarious position without pre-arranged support - particularly with the "Marinekorps Flandern" controlling the shoreline. Nor was there an exit strategy in place for the most likely outcome that the temporary bridges closest to the Kings Royal Rifles and 1st Northamptonshire troops would be destroyed.

Thanks again to Cnock and yourself for helping me to understand - "someone had blundered" pretty well covers it.

Paul

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Paul,

Those are pretty much the same conclusions that I think I would draw regarding the situation that the two battalions were put in.

Steve.

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Hi Steve,

Yes - I've found a posting by Robert Dunlop on another site, and he says the British artillery only had 176 of 583 guns in place. They tried a counter barrage and lost guns in the process. Bad decision, bad timing.

Paul

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Hello,

I can add:

Germans had no landing craft available

The British artillery was not yet registered on the German frontline

There was indeed heavy sea,(mentionned both in British and German reports)

For this reason British ships could not help with their naval artillery, also bombardement by German destroyers and torpedoboats could not take place

Cnock

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Hi Cnock,

Thanks for explaining the weather conditions off-shore to me - Captain Butler's judgment may have been impaired by emotion from the heat of battle, and reliance on inaccurate reports. I'm finding all this very interesting but entirely foreign to me, so apologies in advance should my comments come across as amateurish. The events of 10th July are much clearer to me now, and a naval bombardment can be eliminated as the cause of Lieutenant Munro's death, so I would guess "B" Company Headquarters most probably was taken out by artillery from behind enemy lines in the bombardment that took place between 8.50am and 1pm . 11am to mid-day might be closer to the mark, because shortly after mid-day a dazed and injured 2nd Lieutenant Taylor arrived at Headquarters with the news that "B" Company H.Q. had been hit, Lieutenant Munro presumably buried, with 2nd Lieutenant Heberden being killed earlier that day. Depending on the distances separating "A", "D" and "B" Companies on the front line, "B" Company, which was furthest from the North Sea and closest to Nieuport, may have been from 500 to 1000 yards from Battalion H.Q. that was located in a central position 350 yards behind "D" Company, and given the terrible circumstances and 2nd Lieutenant Taylor's condition, it could have taken him as long as half an hour to an hour to reach Battalion H.Q. Am I correct in assuming that 2nd Lieutenant Taylor would have been "B" Company's commanding officer at that time? I don't know if others from "B" Company made it back to Battalion H.Q. with him, but if any remained on the front line they would have been in complete disarray.

Paul

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Paul

Excuse a hasty response, and the fact that I can't answer these specific queries.

I just wondered if you had yet had chance to look at the Report attached to the 1917 War Diary of 2/KRRC and the KRRC Chronicle account by Butler's father? I don't know that they will help you any more on these specific questions (haven't time just now to check myself) - Butler as adjutant had oversight of the WD and the other is like a slightly airbrushed version of his original reports posted by Steve, interesting from the point of view of what was left out and changed and why. Some might have been with the wisdom of hindsight and more information and some might have been whitewashing for various reasons.

I said in July I'd post a comparison but haven't got round to it yet! In the New Year I will try to post it - and maybe a transcription of parts of the WD Report, which is typed but a blurred carbon copy, if it's of interest. I can't recall if it's been digitised, I got it at Kew. Also Abadie's two versions of his last message to company commanders, one for A Coy and one for the rest.

There was understandably a lot of recrimination.

I found this interesting little comment in PD Ravenscroft's diary published as Unversed in Arms, A Subaltern on the Western Front - he was with 2/KRRC but had been sent to Nieuport Bains (by tunnel) the night before to arrange relief so escaped:

'Monday 16th July

Moved 7.17 am to Capelle a few miles south of Dunquerque. Arrived about 1230 pm. Lt - Gen Du Cane, GOC XV Corps, spoke to officers of Northants and ourselves. A most unfortunate speech and very different from our Brigadier and Divisional Commander. His theme was that we were not in any way to blame. None of us had any intention of blaming ourselves.
'

(p 91 - ed Antony Bird, pub in 1990 by the Crowood Press: my thanks to Mark Brockway of this forum for the recommendation.)

Liz

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Hi All,

The www.tunnellers.net site has a .doc file with an excellent account of the 10 July 1917 battle at Nieuport. These are the relevant paragraphs to save you hunting around:

THE GERMAN DASH AT NIEUPORT

A POLITICAL MOVE

PARIS, Friday.

The correspondent of “Le Petit Parisien” at the British Front say that Prince Rupprecht’s attack on Nieuport seems to have had a political rather than a military aim. It was hoped to create during the German political crisis an impression that the success was a prelude to a general offensive. After an overwhelming bombardment the enemy resumed his old tactics and advanced from the sea as far as Lombaertzyde. After a fierce struggle he reached the Yser Canal. He also attempted to outflank the British from the south-west of Nieuport, but his marines were unable to cross the navigable barrier between the Yser and Lombaertzyde. At last the enemy’s stubborn attempts broke down before the unbroken resistance of a redoubtable British division, which covered itself with glory. The enemy after suffering very heavy losses gave up the attempt. It cannot be denied that the struggle was a very hot one, but it left the British calm and confident. The Germans owed their success to their large forces and an enormously heavy bombardment.

BATTLE OF THE SAND DUNES

LONDON, Friday.

The correspondent of the United Press at headquarters states: Nothing in this has surpassed the fury of the fighting on the sand dunes. The British were taken at a tremendous disadvantage, and fought to the last man, scarcely any of the survivors coming out unwounded, and these escaped by swimming the Yser. The German bombardments began at 6 o’clock in the morning upon the front line, deluging the support trenches and reserve positions all day long. The bombardment reached its intensity at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Droves of German aeroplanes came over, flying low, and machine gunning in the direction of the artillery. Already the British had suffered heavily, but the remainder stuck to their posts, awaiting the attack. The battlefield became a maelstrom of smoke, steel and flying sand. The Germans barraged the front line in the evening, while the marines charged. Hardly a British machine gun was workable, as the guns were choked with sand. Then ensued the bloodiest hand to hand battle with revolvers, bayonets, and clubbed rifles, until practically none survived of the English lads. At last a heroic wounded man swam back over the Yser with a rope, thus enabling the wounded non-swimmers to pull themselves across. The reserves counterattacked to the southward of Lombaertzyde, retaking a section of the trenches.

HEROES OF THE BATTLE

A SURPRISE ATTACK

Mr Philip Gibbs, war correspondent at the British Front, reports: The heroes of the battle of the Dunes were the King’s Royal Rifles and the Northamptonshire Regiment. Their last stand beyond the Yser Canal will never be forgotten. Among the King’s Royal Rifles were many London lads, whom we used to think over-civilised and soft, they have now consecrated the tract of sand dunes by one of the most tragic episodes of the war. The bombardment early on July 10 was unexpected. The British had only but for a short time taken over the sector, and the men were luxuriating in their position on the seashore, and some were bathing, when the attack opened up from the new trenches, tunnels, concrete emplacements, and breastworks between the coast and Lombaertzyde. The enemy began by putting a barrage down on the front line from many batteries of large howitzers. After an hour there was five minutes pause, and then the wall of shells crossed the canal and churned up the sand for another hour.

MUST FIGHT TO THE DEATH

The alternation in the tornado of steel between the front and support lines continued, and during an interval of a quarter of an hour the officers went down the line telling the King’s Rifles and the Northamptons that they must fight to the death. The bridges were broken behind, and there was no escape. It was impossible to get messages to the rear, and it was practically impossible to leave the dug-outs to reconnoitre the situation of the fight. Aeroplanes overhead flying low, poured in machine-gun fire. After 12 hours all the German batteries broke into drum fire, and poured in shells for three-quarters of an hour without pause. Then the first three waves of German marines advanced with bombing parties, and heavily outnumbered the few scattered groups of King’s Rifles and Northamptons. They came on in crescent formation, one detachment trying to work round the flank of the King’s Rifles on the seashore, while the other tried to outflank the Northamptons.

DESPERATE FIGHTING

A party of German machine gunners crept along the edge of the sands, advancing at low tide, and enfiladed the support line. Another party of marines attacked the tunnel which was the headquarters of the King’s Rifles. One man of the King’s rifles who was not killed stayed among the dead until night, and then crept out, and swam the canal. The platoons of the King’s Rifles fought to the last man, a little group of five behind a sandbank finally remaining. Meanwhile the Northamptons, who were desperately fighting sent a message to the British force at Lombaertzyde to form a barrier to prevent the enemy coming through. The Northamptons had no chance of escape, and their machine guns were put out of action and buried in the sand. One gunner got his machine gun in action, but it jammed, and with a curse, he flung it into the Yser, and then jumped in and swam back to the British lines. Another gunner was hit twice by shells, and was unable to work his machine gun, as he was lying on his side. A comrade came up and tried to drag the gunner to the canal, in the hope of swimming back with him. “Don’t mind me,” said the gunner. “Smash my gun and get back.” There was no time to discuss the matter, so the gun was smashed, and the wounded man left. The fight of an hour and a half finished at 8.30.

HEROIC NORTHAMPTONS

A wounded sergeant of the Northamptons, who swam back, saw the end of a little group of six of the Northamptons’ officers. Surrounded by marine bombers they fought to the end with their revolvers. The picture of those six boys on the sand dunes, with the dead lying around, fighting on to certain death, will be among the memories of the great war which the country, ever cherish. Meanwhile, on the banks of the canal, British soldiers, dripping with blood and over-weak to swim, were trying to get back to the Nieuport side swam with a rope, under heavy fire, and fixed it so that the surviving men of the Northamptons were able to drag themselves across. There were a few of them, but enough to reconstruct the tragic tale. The enemy did not reach the bank of the canal, but dug in 300 yards away.

The Brisbane Courier

Monday July 16, 1917

Queensland

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Hi Liz,

Thank you - I found Captain Butler's formal report and his informal private report sent to his father on this forum, and was particularly interested in Lieutenant-General Rawlinson's pencilled notes that had been transcribed (was it by Steve?). Like you, I thought there may have been some whitewashing going on, but as Mick Forsyth and Cnock have pointed out, there wasn't much more that could be done - in respect of naval support anyway - but there was no air support, the artillery wasn't fully prepared, there was no exit strategy for crossing the Yser when the bridges had gone, and the bunkers and trenches they were defending had been poorly constructed with little or no concrete (although I'm not certain on that point). Little wonder the Germans called it a beach party. Captain Butler laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Corp Commander, and with good reason I would think. I don't claim to be an expert, but it would appear the Kings Royal Rifles and 1st Northampton may have been left in harms way so the Corp Commander could claim his troops had gained territory.

PD Ravencroft's diary entry exactly mirrors Captain Butler's interpretation of Du Cane's speech, and was indeed insulting to all concerned - a shameful display at best, and hardly a speech to boost morale.

Liz, I'd love to see your comparison of the reports when you get time to transcribe them - in fact I spent some time today trying to find photo originals on the internet, but it seems they are only available at Kew (of little use to someone in Victoria!) - do you happen to know if copies are available for purchase online? I wanted to link them to a tribute to Lieutenant Munro, but may not be able to do so if they are protected by copyright.

Paul

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If you PM me your e-mail address Paul, I will send you copies of the Butler letters from Brigade War Diary that I transcribed above. They were in negative (white writing on black - a copy produced by a good old-fashioned duplicator), so I reversed the images to black on white. You can have copies of either.

I believe that copies of documents from war diaries are Crown Copyright - i.e. they cannot be reproduced FOR PROFIT without permission.

Steve.

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If you PM me your e-mail address Paul, I will send you copies of the Butler letters from Brigade War Diary that I transcribed above. They were in negative (white writing on black), so I reversed the images to black on white. You can have copies of either.

Steve.

Same here for the Chronicle account, by Lt-Col Lewis Butler, his father - the smoothed-over version. If I have your e-mail address I can send it to you and you can do your own comparison, Paul, as you need it fairly urgently - I may take a while. (A forum pal did the same for me earlier, though I've since been to the Rifles museum at Winchester to read up some of the chronicles.)Then I can just do the 2/KRRC 1917 WD Report on Nieuport, if as it seems it's not online (haven't checked myself).

Steve, just seen your second bit re copyright - there is a statement by the mods of the GWF somewhere about the copyright question, isn't there? As you say I thought we'd be OK reproducing the documents with acknowledgement in not-for-profit circs. Transcription is I suppose similarly covered.

Liz

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Hi All,

A question for the experts - I'm intrigued by this paragraph from Captain Butler's official (and censored) version of events:

"Of these casualties 25 were inflicted upon "A" Company in one day, which was thereupon relieved by “C" Company and took the place of the latter. In support in accordance with the orders received a raid was made on the enemy's entrenchments during the night of the 9th-10th. The party employed consisted of an officer and 20 men, all Rhodesians, from "B" Company."

As I understand it, "B" Company had at least three officers on the 10th - Lieuts. Munro, Heberden and Taylor - does anyone happen to know if this unnamed Rhodesian officer was one of those three mentioned, or could he have come from other rankings in "B" Company? The reason I ask, is that Lieut. Baillie Chisholm Munro's last place of permanent residence prior to enlisting at London on 18 November, 1914 was Hartley, Rhodesia where his brother Donald MacLeod Munro died in battle four years earlier. Baillie was born at Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands, and traveled from South Africa to London on 4 November, 1914 as a British passenger, so it would have been incorrect to call him a Rhodesian.

A merry Christmas to all,

Paul

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Re Lt. Munro's estimated time of death on 10 July, 1917 - had I read more carefully all of the earlier postings to this thread, I would have noticed Steve's 4 August 2006 extracts of the 1st Northampton war diaries, where page 2 has this message timed at 11.07am on that day:

"O.C. 2nd K.R.R.C. reported that Right Coy. H.Q. was blown in, Battalion H.Q. was being heavily shelled, he was reinforcing right with one platoon. (Pigeon message)."

Pardon my ignorance, but does "O.C." indicate "Operational Command", meaning the K.R.R.C. H.Q. knew as early as 11.07am that Lt. Munro's "B" Company H.Q. on the right flank had gone? If so, it would appear to conflict with the report signed off by Lt.-Gen.Rawlinson, and they shouldn't have been at all surprised when Lt.Taylor arrived with news of "B" Company at least an hour afterwards:

"Although it appeared certain death, Lieut. Gott volunteered about noon to visit "D" Company, and returned with a cheery message from Capt. Clinton, and a report that up to the present all the Officers were unhurt. Colonel Abadie considered Gott's act to be so gallant that he expressed his intention of recommending him for the V.C.

Shortly afterwards, 2nd Lieut. Taylor reached Bn. H.Q. from "B" Company. He had been struck in the head by the splinter of a shell. The wound was pronounced "not dangerous"; but Taylor, naturally enough, was dazed, and only after an interval was able to mutter that his Company H.Q. had been blown in and that Lieut. Munro had, presumably, been buried."

i.e. Lt.Gott volunteered about noon, had time to get to "D" Company (350 yards away?) and back again, then "shorty afterwards" 2nd Lt. Taylor arrived with the same news that the 1st Northamptons had received probably an hour earlier? If Battalion H.Q. already had that information, the report certainly doesn't read that way, but then it had been heavily edited, as opposed to the 1st Northampton version of events that was unemotional and chronological. It was completely understandable that it took the injured Lt.Taylor an hour to get back to H.Q., but it's strange that the report didn't say "Lt.Taylor confirmed..." or something like that. Everyone was playing the blame game, and the report with Lt.-Gen. Rawlinson's handwritten notes may have been very different from Capt.Butler's original "official" version. His report to his father differs slightly in that he mentions Lt.Taylor as arriving before Lt. Gott had returned, which was about 12.30. Even had Battalion H.Q. known that "B" Company had gone an hour before they admitted, there was not much that could be done, with inadequate artillery being even less effective as the fighting became more intimate, and no air support for the entire day's operations - still it would be nice to know the full and true story. As Jack Nicholson famously said "You cain't handle the truth!"

Paul

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