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Remembered Today:

17th battalion Royal Fusiliers


Guest pault

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While browsing the reciepients of the victoria cross I came across the entry for William Stone attached to the 17th battalion Royal Fusiliers (reproduced below)

On 30 November 1917 in the Cambrai Sector, France, Captain Stone, commanding an isolated company 1,000 yards in front of our main line, saw the enemy massing for an attack and sent invaluable information to battalion headquarters. He was ordered to withdraw, leaving a rearguard to cover the withdrawal. As the attack developed with unexpected speed, he sent three platoons back and remained with the rearguard. He stood on the parapet with the telephone, under terrific bombardment, sending back vital information until the line was cut on his orders. The rearguard was eventually cut to pieces, and Captain Stone was seen fighting to the last.

Does anyone have any further details on this action, ie which company, and what were the rest of the battalion doing on this day.

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According to Royal Fusiliers in the Great War, Capt Walter Napoleon Stone commanded B Company, 17th RF. The 17th RF occupied a trench called the 'Rat's Tail' which ran almost a right angles to the main front line to a position 1,000 yards in front, overlooking the German front line on the Bourlon front. B Company were in the most exposed position when four German divisions attacked the three British ones opposite. Stone was ordered to withdraw and sent three platoons back but he remained behind with Lt Benzecry to form a rearguard. Quote:

"The action of this rearguard, under their inspiring leader, stands out remarkable in a day of extraordinary exploits. With bayonet, bullet and bomb, they held off the whole of the German attack until the main position of the whole battalion was fully organised, and they died to a man with their faces to the enemy."

Stone was killed by a shot to the head. His VC was the third won by the Royal Fusiliers on that day.

The 17th RF reorganised in the main line with C Company still in the Rat's Tail. They caused the attacking German troops heavy casualties. They left the line with 20 officers and 351 men.

Capt Walter Napoleon (Napleton on CWGC) Stone VC died on 30th November 1917. 3rd RF attached 17th RF. Age 25. Son of Edward and Emily Frances Stone, of Blackheath, London. Educated at Harrow and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, Panels 3/4

Lt Solomon Benzecry, 10th RF attached 17th RF died on 30th November 1917. He is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, Panels 3/4

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Thanks Bmac

This truley is an amazing forum. my interest lies in the signature below. thanks, it now looks likely that my relative in C company died in the rats tail, after Captain Stone and his comrades made the supreme sacrifice.

pault

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  • 1 month later...

bmac and pault

Re the 17th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

I have 3 questions and hope someone can answer them.

My grandfather's battalion does not often feature, so I was pleased to find it. I think it was called the "Empire" Battalion?

Why Empire? (question 1)

He was John Arthur Shargool and I have a postcard here from him to my grandmother:

"In Hospital B.E.F. France - - - - - Don't be alarmed. I am the proud possessor of 3 "blighty" ones (at least I hope it means "blighty") one on the side - the back and the right arm. However as you see it does not prevent me writing - - - - - -" He still had problems in the 1950s with his back.

The postmark is Field Post Office 17 Nov ?. probably 1917 as he was OK in 1916. I don't have his service record.

Could he have been in the Rat Tail Trench?(question 2)

Why did he hope it meant "blighty"?(question 3)

He had a DCM and an MM but may have been lucky to have been woulded before the end of November.

Best wishes, Dian

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Dian,

I assume he is L/Cpl John Arthur Shargool of "A" Company 17th RF, as mentioned in the Unit history. The London Gazette Issue 29794 (Second Supplement dated Friday 20th October 1916 records that Pte 1677 Shargool was awarded the military medal. If you don't have a copy of the unit history you might want to search one out - especially as he is mentioned several times - unusual for a private. He was part of the (very) small Battalion scout section formed in March 1916 while in the line near Bully-Grenay. The 17th RF is not one of the more expensive unit histories. By all means private message me if you want some pointers to find one.

Gazette Issue 29713 published on the 18 August 1916 records his DCM with the citation recorded as "For conspicuous gallantry after a raid. With two men he carried back a badly wounded man under rapid fire of rifles and bombs, the enemy using flares to light up the ground. He is a daring and successful scout."

The London Gazette can be found at Gazette

Soldiers slang can be tricky if you aren't familiar. Much of it is derived from Indian army usage and Indian langauge.

Blighty was "home" - the UK and where every soldier hoped to return.

In the context of wounds a "Blighty one" was an injury which resulted in the soldier being returned to the UK for treatment. What more could he hope for than to get back to the UK and see friends and family again away from the front.

Thats the easy question. Two more to go.

Martin

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Martin

Many thanks for the information. I tracked down the two citations last year and have the impressed copies sent to him, but I do not know much about the history of the 17th. I will contact you about this. I am not at all surprised that he gained the medals, even as a Private. He was an amazing cockney character and when I lived with my grandparents as a student in London I was woken each morning by one of the many WW1 songs he sang when shaving (yes, with all the lather on his face and wielding one of those cut-throat razors which he first sharpened, singing or whistling). He did not talk much about the war but went to all the annual meeting of those who had survived. Dwindling numbers saddened him and in the end he gave up going.

Thank you for your reply.

Dian

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  • 10 years later...

I am the Secretary of the WW1 Commemoration Committee for Warlingham in Surrey. We are trying to find out as much as possible about the 17th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers who were stationed in the First World War in a camp at Warlingham. Their Colours are laid up in All Saints Church, Warlingham. We are holding many EVENTS in our village based on the 17th Battalion. We have a beautiful grade 2 war memorial on our village green and I am growing barley, poppies and cornflowers this year either side of the memorial. The local garden centre is creating the badge of the 17th in flowers by the church. Any help with information would be gratefully received. We wish to honour these men, who had a great affection for their time spent here. They even named a crater near Givenchy after the village! Thank you. Elizabeth

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Elizabeth

The first port of call should be the battalion history which you can find on abebooks. I'm not sure if it has been reprinted by Naval and Military Press. The war diary is also available to download from the national archives for a small fee.

Kind regards

Colin

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Elizabeth

Plenty of material on 17th Bn. Royal Fusiliers in 'The Royal Fusiliers in the Great War' by H. C. O'NEILL, O.B.E. Reprints of this book published by Naval and Military Press.

Philip

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  • 2 years later...
Guest Martin Doherty
On 02/01/2004 at 21:24, Guest pault said:

Thanks Bmac

This truley is an amazing forum. my interest lies in the signature below. thanks, it now looks likely that my relative in C company died in the rats tail, after Captain Stone and his comrades made the supreme sacrifice.

pault

 

My grandfather lead one of the two platoons in question, the other being lead by Lt Benzecry. He had this to say of Captain Stone's death: "At one point -  glancing to my right, I saw, a few yards to our rear, Capt. Stone, stood quite upright, field glasses slung over his shoulder, consulting a map he was holding. Even as I drew Pard’s attention, we saw the Captain’s steel helmet jerk up, and he fell - shot through the head."  Regarding Benzecry: 

"Benzecry, - head swathed in white bandages - firing away with a rifle he must have taken, perhaps from a wounded lad or a dead one - Officers carried revolvers not rifles. The thought flashed into my mind that he was presenting a clear target. The time came when I realised the chaps we had seen first going down the farther slope into the valley must by now be making their way up the nearer slope ( out of our sight) and might emerge a few yards away from us - in their much larger numbers. Another glance to my left - no sign of “B” company’s boys - only some laid down motionless, probably dead, and one white-bandaged head which I took to be Lt. Benzecry."

 

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