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Remembered Today:

Mont Kemmel 25 April,1918


Terry
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A couple of months ago, I purchased a lovely trio of medals to Capt.Henry Wynne Huxley, a Canadian from Winnipeg who had served first as a private with the PPCLI until wounded at Frezenberg (8 May,1915), and on recovery had been commissioned into the Imperial Army (19th Lancashire Fusiliers - 3rd Salford Pals). Through the knidness of forum member Mark Hone I obtained copies of the Fusiliers' unit history in which Huxley was mentioned on several occasions for his leadership of "A" Company on 1 July,1916. He ended up as the only surviving company officer (although wounded) in the attack, and on one occasion led a rush of forty men to within ten yards of the enemy trenches, by which time he had only four men left.

Mark also send me a brief account of the Pals' actions at Mont Kemmel, 25 April,1918. From what I can determine, the battalion was badly cut up that day, being basically overwhelmed by the German assault. The CO, adjutant,RSM were all dead or missing. "A" Company, with Huxley now it's OC, was overrun.The 19th suffered some 350 missing or dead.

Does anyone have any further information on this action? The account seems to indicate that there were not many members of the battalion left when the battle ended. I wonder if Huxley was captured. His MIC gives no indication of this, but I am not sure if the fact of becoming a POW was always recorded on the MIC.

Any help would be appreciated.

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Terry;

My principal study is German storm troops, and in particular flame-thrower troops. Therefore, I have studied several very serious attacks on British forces, utilizing British sources, such as unit diaries and the like, and I have noticed that the historical record for the battalion that the blow fell on directly can be quite thinner than for the flanking units. I first thought that this was odd, but then I realized that the blow had left few officers in the unit at the center of the attack, and left the unit badly disorganized. Therefore a very scant record of momentous events then made sense.

I believe that flame-throwers were used in this attack. I will poke thru my materials and see what I find.

Bob Lembke

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Terry;

Yes, the attack included a very large flamethrower effort. I don't seem to have assembled a lot of material on it to date; I have not started writing the battle up.

Bob Lembke

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Hi Terry.

I have access to the war diary for April 1918, the regimental history, and the Salford Pals by Stedman. If you can tell me which accounts Mark sent you, perhaps I can help fill in the blanks.

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Mark sent me pp.344-345 from the regimental history relating to Mont Kemmel, and I also just obtained the Stedman book, so the best bet might be the war diary.

Cheers,

Terry

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Terry, I have a copy of the April War diary, for the 25th it reads:

"Battalion heavily shelled with gas & H.E. at 2.30 a.m. 'B' Coy. at work at the time. 'A', 'C' & H.Q. Coys. presumed resting. At approx. 4 a.m. the enemy attacked the French holding the line succeeded in breaking through on two sided of the hill. 'B' Coy who had suffered heavy casualties during the bombardment consisted now of only Capt. Wright, Lieut. Graham Brown & 45 O.Rs. In the heavy fighting which ensued before meeting reinforcements another 14O.Rs. were lost. H.Q. 'A' & 'C' Coys. no news. The following is the list of of missing:-Lt. Col. J. Ambrose Smith, Capt. Huxley, Lts. Price, Cartwright, Middleton, Mutch and Marriott. R. 2nd Lts. Belcher, Wilson, Walker, Thomas, Smith H. W. Ball, Bell W. E. and Capt. A. B. Cluckie, R.A.M.C. 2nd Lt. Crosbie wounded & missing. 9 O.R. killed, 48 O.R. wounded and 333 missing. Details move in the evening to farm near HOOGGRAAF (sh 28 1/40,000 G.32.a.4/7)".

The Coys. of the 19th were relieved in the front line by the French on the evening of 18th April, on the 19th they entrenched themselves 'for safety' on the western side of the hill before moving off to billets at WESTOUTRE, HQ at Farm House M.14.a.9/5. It seems they were, under supervision of 456 Coy R.E., digging a C.T. from Mt. Kemmel to Scherpenberg at night from 22nd to the 25th.

Keith

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Hi Keith,

Would it then be reasonable to assume that the officers listed (including my man Huxley) were probably captured, or in somes cases killed? A CWGC check could confirm the fatal casualties (I know Huxley survived the war) but it would add greatly to the account of Huxley if it could be confirmed that he was a POW.

Cheers,

Terry

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I understand that a book listing British officer POW's was produced at some point. I wonder if any forum member might have a copy to do a check on Huxley?

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I fear that the following will be of limited use to many Pals, but here is the German Army communique for April 26, 1918. My impression is that the Germans made a point to be generally truthful in this daily communique, and achieve any propaganda effect by naturally highlighting successes, and just as naturally ignoring reverses, rather than give cooked-up history. (I have a letter from a Yank three-star to Pershing, discussing casualties to the US Army, and the letter relied on the German daily communique for US losses (prisoners), and the letter seems to accept the German numbers on their face.)

Der deutsche Heeresbericht:

Der Kemmelberg erstürmt

Die Orte Kemmel, St. Eloi, Dranoeter und die Höhe nordwestlich von Vleugelhoek genommen - Mehr als 6500 Gefangene

Großes Hauptquartier, 26. April.

Westlicher Kriegsschauplatz:

Der Angriff der Armee des Generals Sixt v. Armin gegen den Kemmel führte zu vollem Erfolge; der Kemmel, die weit in die flandrische Ebene blickende Höhe, ist in unserem Besitz. Nach starker artilleristischer Feuerwirkung brach die Infanterie der Generale Sieger und v. Eberhard gestern morgen zum Sturm vor. Französische Divisionen, im Rahmen englischer Truppen mit der Verteidigung des Kemmel betraut, und die bei Wytschaete und Dranoeter anschließenden Engländer wurden aus ihren Stellungen geworfen. Die großen Sprengtrichter von St. Eloi und der Ort selbst wurden genommen. Die zahlreichen in dem Kampfgelände gelegenen Betonhäuser und ausgebauten Gehöfte wurden erobert. Preußische und bayrische Truppen erstürmten Dorf und Berg Kemmel. Unter dem Schutze der trotz schwierigen Geländes heranbleibenden Artillerie stieß die Infanterie an vielen Stellen bis zum Kemmelbach vor. Wir nahmen Dranoeter und die Höhe nordwestlich von Vleugelhoek. Schlachtgeschwader griffen die mit Fahrzeugen und Kolonnen stark belegten rückwärtigen Straßen des Feindes mit großem Erfolge an. Als Beute des gestrigen Kampftages sind bisher mehr als 6500 Gefangene, in der Mehrzahl Franzosen, unter den Gefangenen ein englischer und französischer Regimentskommandeur, gemeldet.

Südlich von der Somme konnte Villers-Bretonneux, in das wir eingedrungen waren, vor feindlichem Gegenangriff nicht gehalten werden. Weitere starke Gegenangriffe scheiterten hart östlich vom Dorfe, an dem dem Feinde entrissenen Wald und Dorf Hangard. Die Gefangenenzahl aus diesem Kampfabschnitt hat sich auf 2400 erhöht. Zwischen Avre und Oise außer zeitweilig auflebendem Feuer nichts von Bedeutung. Auf dem Westufer der Mosel stürmten sächsische Kompagnien französische Gräben und drangen in Regnieville ein. Nach Erfüllung ihrer Aufgabe kehrten sie mit Gefangenen in ihre Linien zurück.

Von den anderen Kriegsschauplätzen nichts Neues.

Der Erste Generalquartiermeister

Ludendorff.

The first paragraph covers Kemmel.

I have not started to write up this battle, so I don't have any German unit-specific info yet, except for a little on the flame thrower effort there, which was major.

Bob Lembke

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POWs - most of those named in the War Diary were taken prisoner on 25/04/18 including HUXLEY. The exceptions were Lt PRICE, 2/Lts BELL, W E and THOMAS. HUXLEY was repatriated on 08/12/18 along with Major J AMBROSE-SMITH.

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Thanks to all forum Pals for their assistance.The confirmation of Capt.Huxley's POW status has added much to my appreciation of the medal trio.

Cheers,

Terry

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Terry, I suspect the answer is yes. Read the relevant section in Mike Steadman's 'Salford Pals', especially Lt. Col. Bousfield's account written from memory whilst a POW.

If my research into 1/5 W. Yorks. on that day is anything to go by a major part of the Kemmel Defence Force was in serious disarray on the 25th.

Keith

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