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Battle of the Dunes, July 1917


Hugh Pattenden
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Guys;

I notice the "back and forth" about the use of FW in this attack. I have not studied this attack in depth, so far only using the materials from Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer , and a minimal study of a bit of the material from the German naval units (such material being very hard to obtain over here, at least), I might still be able to make some useful comments. I might mention that I have to fly with my memory; I have a technical problem that prevents me from refering to my principal compelation of FW material at this moment.

One company of the FW regiment took part in the attack. at this stage in the war a flame company would probably have with it about 30 light Wex FW, a number of heavy FW, which at this stage of the war would most likely not even been used in most attacks, and perhaps a few Klief FW, which were the old German light FW, but when superseded by the lighter Wex light FW for that role, were now refered to as "medium" FW and still useful for certain purposes. As this FW company had to travel quite a way to get to Flanders they might or might not have brought all of this gear along.

The use of the heavy FW for a diversion, or alternatively for screening use at the opening phase of an attack, was a standard tactic. Some-times, if an attack was going to be made at a certain point, several FW would be detailed to "open fire" (literally) several hundred meters to one side. The enemy might shift resources, more importantly, they might shift their artillery to lay down a defensive barrage at that first sector. Then the actual attack would occur a ways to the side, and before the artillery could re-aim, the attackers would be in the first line of defensive trenches.

The heavy FW would often have one flame lance attached to a ganged set of several fuel oil and propellant tanks, and had a larger diameter spraying nozzle on the flame lance, so it could throw a large and sustained volume of flame oil out, perhaps to 120 feet. (The entire assembly would weigh several hundred pounds and was not portable in the tactical sense; each compoinent could be man-carried.) In order to get greater range the assembly might be secretly assembled at night in a sap extending toward the enemy lines, and additionally a hose assembly as long as 60 feet might attach the flame lance to the tank assembly; the operator and probably a second man might hop out of the sap and rush forward say 40' and then fire, hoping that the flame and smoke he would then project would protect him from aimed rifle fire. Usually several FW would do this at the same time, and frequently the flame and smoke streams would be projected diagonally, providing much better visual cover. In the largest FW attack ever, on the Eastern Front, 24 heavy FW were used in the opening screening attack, and then 130 light FW teams along with assault infantry previously trained by FW officers advanced through the screening fire of the 24 heavy devices. The most commonly used blend of FW flame oil was blended to provide a great deal of dense smoke. There was an alternative blend compounded to minimize smoke to provide the shock of the flame attack without much smoke to hamper the enemy's artillery observation and ranging, if that fitted into the tactical concept of that attack.

So in the Battle of the Dunes it seems that the flame company set up its heavy FW in one sector to provide a diversion, and in this way it could mass all of its light Wex FW for the assault in the other sector. Once set up, each heavy FW could be used by only 2-3 men each. As memory serves, the flame company lost five men killed in this attack, quite a high casualty rate, compared to their usual rate of losses, about one man per attack on average, so I think that the light FW must have been quite active it the attack. (I am grateful to all of the citations to source material, which I will happily use if I ever write this battle up properly from the FW point of view.)

This battle certainly was not "a FW attack", in the sense of a dominant weapon. The FW, I am sure, did not "win" the battle. But a well-prepared and planned attack by elite troops like the German Marine units at the Battle of the Dunes would have certainly been made more effective and crushing with the inclusion of 24 or 30 FW in the leading waves, manned by carefully trained specialists. It must have been an effective component, but not more so than the careful artillery preparation, or the coordinated air support attacks. All of these components added up into a crushing attack. Hard to see how the Brits could have successfully defended against such an attack on such an isolated bridgehead.

Bob Lembke

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  • 5 months later...

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.

Hello Steve

I did say I'd be interested and would reciprocate with one of Richard Abadie, the other Colonel at Nieuport, but heard no more!

I've been trying to pm you but your box is full.

I've done an account of the whole Abadie family 1841 -1917 and a bit beyond (four sons, two died in Africa, two killed on the western front), with a general audience in mind: 1) Eastbourne local history society journal as the family grave is here and 2)Canterbury cathedral guides and visitors as the family memorial is there. It's wide-ranging, so inevitably a bit superficial, and biographical rather than military, so anecdotal, but does contain quite a bit of original research. It is only partly about the Great War. I have included an acknowledgment to the GWF and want to name a few people who have been especially helpful so I'd be very grateful if you would pm me.

If anyone else is interested please contact me. I have also done a separate account of Richard Abadie alone, which is more obviously relevant to this thread.

Liz

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  • 4 weeks later...

The battle of the Dunes has been one of the battles that I have always been drawn towards, and have researched on the basis that it was a major event in the history of the Northamptonshire Regiment that I research. However, I didn't think I had a family link to the battle....

That was an incorrect assumption as I now find out that my great-grandmother's brother - 1192 George Penniston Tyers of the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps - was taken POW there... Obviously, Spion Kop wasn't tough enough for him!

So now I have to research both Regiments!

Steve.

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This is great news, Steve.

It's odd - I got interested in 2/KRRC at Nieuport through a local interest (Lt-Col Richard Abadie) before I found out there was a family connection (my great-aunt's fiance, Rfn John Thomas Hardcastle, previously in the 21/KRRC). Since I last wrote about him here, another Forum pal has sent me a postcard of the hospital in Belgium where he died after being taken prisoner at the Battle of the Dunes.

Did your great-great uncle survive?

Liz

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Yes, he did - he was POW at Bohmte near Osnabrück (associated with the Soltau camp, I think), stayed in until January 1920 and when discharged listed his wanted employment as "Clerk at Winchester Rifles Depot" (so I presume a job was lined up). He stayed in Winchester and died in 1939. He was in "D" Company it appears and went through without a scratch from 1914 to the Dunes (he was world class ducker by the sounds of it!). He had also been with 3rd KRRC in South Africa (Spion Kop, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, etc.), and had spells on Bermuda and in India, including the 1911 Delhi Durbar.

Steve.

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  • 1 year later...

I am a novice in researching the Battle of the Dunes but my grandfather Capt Ernest Robert Crockett Aylett, who I was very close to, was involved and was captured there. I know he received the Military Cross but I don't know why and after reading all the posts it does not mention this, Can anyone help?

I have also been told be received the Military Cross not the Victoria Cross because they were in retreat at the time. Is this true?

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Nikki, the expert on the Northamptonshire Regiment here is Stebie 9173 (Steve) who may well be able to help you, but meanwhile you may be interested to see that he has already posted an account of a fellow-officer and a photograph including your grandfather on this thread:

http://1914-1918.inv...howtopic=153132

Liz

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I have done some research on Ernest Aylett, and I believe I have a copy of his officers file.

I shall have a look at what I have later.

Steve.

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Captain Aylett's Military Cross was a New Year Honour from January 1917, and probably relates to his work on the Somme during July, August, September 1916. No citations were published for this type of award. Some of these M.C.s would be for continuous good work, but others were for specific deeds.

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) Ernest Robert Crocket Aylett, North'n R.

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I have moved the details I posted about Ernest Aylett to the topic Nikki has started since the post was extremely long and it is best to keep topics from going off at tangents.

The post is now here:

 

Steve.

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Just to note: One thing I am missing is a decent photograph of Ernest Aylett at a reasonable resolution. I would be grateful for a copy if you have one.

Given the size of my post above, it may be a good idea for you to start a new topic specifically on Ernest Aylett so that we don't side-track the topic too much, in which case I will move my post from here to there.

Steve.

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I have been reading with interest the accounts of the Northamptonshire's. My Grandfather was Capt Ernest Robert Crockett Aylett and although we were very close until his death in 1980 he would never discuss the war at all. Only the bits about the horse as we had a mutual love of all things equine. WE have his Military Cross but we are realising we do not know enough about what he went through and would welcome any information about how he won the military cross. I am asssuming he won it in the Battle of the Dunes. I am a real novice in all things war related I am afraid so would welcome pointers about how to find out about his war and the Northamptonshires.

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Sorry Steve, Theposts seem to be jumping about. Thank you so much for all the infromation it really helps us understand the war and the actions that he took. I will send a pic of my grandad. Do you want him in uniform?

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Nikki,

Ernest Robert Crocket Aylett was awarded his Military Cross for bravery and leadership near High Wood on the Somme on 20th August 1916, and not at the battle of the Dunes. As I posted above, the Regimental History notes: "At 2.30 p.m. (on 20th August 1916) a final attempt was made {to recapture ground lost during a German counter attack near High Wood}, this time with some artillery support. After a hard fight, a post was established about 300 yards in advance of Clark's Trench, whence an excellent view could be obtained for artillery registration, but the original position was not recaptured. During these attacks Second Lieutenant E. R. C. Aylett displayed great courage and powers of leadership, and for his conduct he was subsequently awarded the Military Cross. About 140 casualties were incurred on this day."

His Military Cross was announced in the London Gazette of 1st January 1917 (i.e. the New Year Honours). As was normal, these awards did not have a citation printed, but the Regimental History does specifically state that the award was due to his actions on 20th August 1916.

The page of the online Archive of the London Gazette where it appears is here:

http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/29886/supplements/30

Steve.

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A picture in uniform would be great.


My e-mail is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Do you have the article from the Northampton Independent where he is promoted to Sergeant in 1914?



I will help you out with some more information if you want.



Steve.

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I have started a new post under Soldiers. I don't know how to move all this to there but I have posted a small jpg ofGrandad with his brothers. I have a higher resolution image but it is too big to post on this site. I can email it to you though.

Regards

Nikki

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  • 4 years later...

Resurrecting this great thread.

 

I understand that the British trenches west of Lombardzyde itself (and south of the Geleide Creek) were manned by units of 32nd Div.

 

Did the Germans attack here or was the assault confined to the trenches held by 2 KRRC and 1 Northants? If they did attack does anyone know what happened?

 

Many thanks

 

Neil

Edited by Neil Mackenzie
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Can I also ask if anyone knows the location/trench of the Northants Battalion HQ.

 

Many thanks

 

Neil

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Hello there.

 

Can anyone help me, I am looking for information about my grandfather, Michael Joseph Ryan of  A comp  the 2nd battalion, KRR, no  A 203018 attested 12 8 1914 aged 39   who was taken prisoner of war on 10 July 1917 during Operation Strandfest. 

 

Can I obtain details of his records during his service ?.  I have his diaries covering much of his service  inc his account of the actions of 10th july , inc details where he attended to Lt A G Boucher who was fatally wounded and died on the sands at nieuport. . The diaries are in poor condition and i would love to fill in the missing pieces. I have read through the pages of this forum and am amazed at the detail it contains . know these posts are years old now but with the centenary of the battle looming maybe i am. not to late ?

 

Look forward to hearing from you.

 

John

Edited by Johnjoeflatley
INSERT MORE INFORMATION
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Hi John - welcome to the forum.

Did your grandfather survive the war?  If you have already looked for his record on Ancestry or Findmypast and haven't found it, I fear you won't be able to. You seem to have quite a lot of detail already, such as his company. Have you seen the battalion war diary?

I hope you'll be able to post some of the details in his diary!  How lucky you are to have it.  I'd be especially interested if he recorded anything about what happened to him after being taken prisoner.  My great-aunt's fiance, J T Hardcastle,was in the 2nd KRRC after being transferred from his original battalion, 21st, and was also taken prisoner.  As you may have seen, I tried to work out what had happened to him between then and his death in a German military hospital not very far from Nieuport three weeks later, and Eddie (Cnock) posted a photo of prisoners marching.

I'd also be very interested to know if he mentioned Lt.Col. Abadie.

 

Liz 

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It does look like he has some records online, possibly even two sets on Ancestry.

 

He seems to have been pre-war Rifle Brigade, served with 7th rifle Brigade in the early part of the war and then transferred to 2/K.R.R.C.

 

 

Neil, I've been under the weather lately and missed your posts. I will try and look at the Northamptons HQ location, but I have a feeling the location is rather vague in the war diary, etc. I have never looked into 32nd Division's involvement, but have seen several mentions of casualties during the events. I have never taken up the baton to look and see what was happening in their area though.

 

 

Steve.

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Someone posted some further pictures of the prisoners being marched behind the line on Facebook last week. I was ill so didn't really look at them as much as I would have done. I can try and find them if you haven't seen the extra pics.

 

 

Steve.

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It is probably best not to divert too much from the topic of this thread with discussions on individual soldiers but here is the basic outline of Rifleman's Ryan's careere with first Rifle Brigade then K.R.R.C.

 

Michael Joseph Ryan

  • Born on 30 September 1877 or 30 October 1877 per ICRC records
  • Son of Amy Ryan, 21 Lowder Street, Wapping
  • Served as No. 3796 in the Militia with 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade prior to full time enlistment from 28 March 1895 to 19 November 1895.
  • Enlisted on terms of 7 years active service and five years on reserve on 20 November 1895, age 18 years & 2 months
  • Allotted No. 4218 in the Rifle Brigade
  • Posted to 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade in the UK from 20 November 1895
  • Transferred to 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade for service in India from 1 March 1898
  • Passed third class education certificate 8 December 1899
  • Passed second class education certificate 23 February 1900
  • Passed Course in Transport Duties on 30 January 1901
  • To South Africa 14 February 1902
  • Joined 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade in South Africa
  • Served in South Africa in 1902
  • Entitled to the Queen’s South Africa Medal with two clasps – Transvaal and South Africa 1902
  • Arrived back in the UK from South Africa on 29 October 1902
  • Serving with 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade at Portsmouth when transferred to the Reserve on 19 November 1902
  • Discharged on Termination of 1st Period of Engagement on 19 November 1907 after 12 years’ service
  • Re-engaged in Section “D” Reserve 29 August 1907 with effect from 19 November 1907
  • Re-enlisted at Stratford on 12 August 1914 on Duration of War Terms, age 38
  • Allotted No. B/60
  • Posted to 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 29 August 1914
  • Part of 41st Infantry Brigade in 14th (Light) Division
  • Absent without leave (in the UK) from 25 to 30 December 1914 – Forfeits 6 days’ pay
  • To France on 19 May 1915
  • Attached to 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps from 25 July 1916
  • Officially transferred to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on 8 September 1916 remaining with 2/K.R.R.C.
  • Allotted No. A/203018
  • Missing on 10 July 1917
  • Prisoner of War initially registered at Limburg
  • Of “A” Company per ICRC cards – first held at Termonde and then transferred to Dulmen about 9 October 1917
  • Transferred to Lechfeld in January 1918
  • Last held as a prisoner of war at Lechfeld in 1918 per records
  • Repatriated to the UK on 5 January 1919
  • Posted to King’s Royal Rifle Corps Depot on arrival back in UK from 6 January 1919
  • Discharged on 18 April 1919 after 4 years and 250 days service
  • Suffering from 100% disablement due to Melancholia and granted pension
  • Of 15 Trench Street, Wapping in 1919
  • Of 16 Trench Street, Wapping in 1921
  • Married to Sarah Matilda Jones at St Mary’s and St Michaels’ on 31 July 1904
  • 6 children born at Wapping between 1904 and 1915
     

Steve.

Edited by Stebie9173
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He's in a block of men transferred from the RB into the KRRC, probably as "Base Grabs" at the IBD.

 

See this topic: John Edwin Hodgson- Rifle Brigade / 2nd Kings Rifle Corps where Steve and I give info on several similar cases.

 

I'm sure I had a map that showed the Northants Btn HQ, but can't lay my hands on it just now.

 

Mark

 

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