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Remembered Today:

1/17th London Rgt. Poplar and Stepney Rifles


DRIFTER
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I'm trying to find the area of operation covered by 1/17th London Regt. Poplar and Stepney Rifles on 4th July 1917. My grandfather 573558 Rifleman John Leahy (whose medal card and a certificate my grandmother had ironically with the words "his name will not be forgotten" were spelt Leaky) was killed on 4th July 1917 while serving with the 1/17th London Rgt. His name, correctly spelt, is on the Menin Gate panel 54. I have a copy of the War Diary for June 1917 and also 1st -31st July 1917 signed by a Lt. Col. W W Hughes comanding 1/17 London Rgt. with an entry under 4th July that includes 'OR killed 1' and as there are no others killed I have assumed this to be my grandfather Rifleman John Leahy. The Diary gives the Map reference as 28SW and the location as 'Left Section'. As on 3rd July the movements for the 1/17th London Regt. were to proceed from La Clytte via Dickebusch - Woodcote Farm (is this the same place as Bedford House which also seems to be referred to as Woodcote House?) and sunken road to relieve 10th West Riding Rgt. in the left sector north of the Ypres - Comines Canal. HQ location is given as map reference 28SW I 35a 4.1 which seems to be on the present Komenseweg/Palingbeekstraat junction just SSW of Hill 60 and the northern edge of The Caterpillar on the west of Battle Wood. The war diary also refers to shelling by 'heavys' and strong aircraft activity throughout the area. A later reference point dated for the night of 7th July is an attack on a forward posn. at 28SW I 36d 10.75 which would appear to be close to Imperfect Trench south of Klein Zillebeke. On the night of 9th July the 1/17th were relieved by the 19th London Rgt. with the 1/17th moving into support with HQ in The Ravine and some troops in the Bluff tunnels.

Sorry this is so long but I felt that by passing on as much information as I have could be useful in gathering extra information. My wife and I visited the area last year but now wish to go back armed with more information and if possible take some photographs for Rifleman John Leahy's two daughters who are now 94 and 91.

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I'm trying to find the area of operation covered by 1/17th London Regt. Poplar and Stepney Rifles on 4th July 1917. My grandfather 573558 Rifleman John Leahy (whose medal card and a certificate my grandmother had ironically with the words "his name will not be forgotten" were spelt Leaky) was killed on 4th July 1917 while serving with the 1/17th London Rgt. His name, correctly spelt, is on the Menin Gate panel 54. I have a copy of the War Diary for June 1917 and also 1st -31st July 1917 signed by a Lt. Col. W W Hughes comanding 1/17 London Rgt. with an entry under 4th July that includes 'OR killed 1' and as there are no others killed I have assumed this to be my grandfather Rifleman John Leahy. The Diary gives the Map reference as 28SW and the location as 'Left Section'. As on 3rd July the movements for the 1/17th London Regt. were to proceed from La Clytte via Dickebusch - Woodcote Farm (is this the same place as Bedford House which also seems to be referred to as Woodcote House?) and sunken road to relieve 10th West Riding Rgt. in the left sector north of the Ypres - Comines Canal. HQ location is given as map reference 28SW I 35a 4.1 which seems to be on the present Komenseweg/Palingbeekstraat junction just SSW of Hill 60 and the northern edge of The Caterpillar on the west of Battle Wood. The war diary also refers to shelling by 'heavys' and strong aircraft activity throughout the area. A later reference point dated for the night of 7th July is an attack on a forward posn. at 28SW I 36d 10.75 which would appear to be close to Imperfect Trench south of Klein Zillebeke. On the night of 9th July the 1/17th were relieved by the 19th London Rgt. with the 1/17th moving into support with HQ in The Ravine and some troops in the Bluff tunnels.

Sorry this is so long but I felt that by passing on as much information as I have could be useful in gathering extra information. My wife and I visited the area last year but now wish to go back armed with more information and if possible take some photographs for Rifleman John Leahy's two daughters who are now 94 and 91.

I can tell you that you are right although, as you say, your grandfather is not named but simply recorded as a casualty on that day. This is common - in the diary the only ORs named as casualties are in the first few days of the war. Colonel Hughes became CO at the beginning of April. I can simply add that the trenches were under attack by German planes described by Colonel Hughes as part of the 'Red Squadron', presumably because of the colour of their aircraft. He says that they flew low at around a hundred feet while attacking the British trenches with machine-gun fire which probably killed your grandfather. These 'trench fighters' were built specfically for the task adapted from Halbrtstadt CL-types and later in 1918 from AEG types armoured with steel plates around their noses and downward-firing guns. Later in 1918 Junker J 1 types were used equipped with radio. The Poplars responded with rifle and Lewis gun fire but it was notoriously difficult to bring down a plane with these weapons although apparently the Red Baron was.

The British later introduced the Sopwith Salamander carrying light bombs and grenades and a machine-gun after trying unsuccessfully to use conventional machines for trench fighting. Incidentally the German word 'strafing' was used for these attacks - a word that became much more familiar in World War II.

See my book 'The Poplars' available from the East London History Society, on the web.

Ron Wilcox

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Ron, Many thanks this has added another part of the 'jigsaw'. Do you know the boundaries for 1/17th London's area in early July 1917? Also, anything else you may have - I'm very much a 'new kid on the block'. Suggestions on any other topics you think I might usefully search will be welcome.

John (named after my grandfather).

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