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Remembered Today:

Supreme Sacrifice


mickrose
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Having read the War Diaries of two Infantry Battalions of different Brigades concerning specific events of one particular day, I noticed a distinct difference in the versions given. Also, only one Diary mentions this.

It concerns the intervention of one CO of one Battalion upon the HQ of the other Battalion in the heat of a battle.

He then seems to take over control of the men of that Battalion. He has the same rank as the existing CO, although the existing CO is a T/.

The existing CO is killed in the battle within a couple of hours of this 'incident'.

His 'Regimental Annual' does'nt mention the 'incident' but states:

" x x x . . .made the supreme sacrifice on xx/xx/xx. He died the death of a British gentleman, and one cannot say any more"

Am I leading myself astray here? Were interventions from other CO's common, and considered no big deal? or does the above line imply that this poor chap felt humiliated and decided to, at the very least, give himself no chance of survival in an attack on the enemy?

Mick

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Max Hastings once said of war diaries ... 'you have to break the codes ... war diaries never say everybody ran away'

Without any further knowledge of the specifics, it certainly sounds a little strange .. even for a Regimental 'Annual' as you put it.

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Desmond,

I'll try to make it a bit clearer.

The main difference in all the references available was that the War Diary and Regiment Annual[1925 or 1930ish] of the Battalion of the chap who was killed, mentioned a withdrawal and a much later counter-attack.

The other War Diary clearly states that 'their' chap proceeded to the HQ in question, after that withdrawal, and sent the men of that battalion back towards the front trenches, and so by the end of the day, there had been two withdrawals and finally a successful counter-attack.

Mick.

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Reckon you may have got something. As per your original question, I have read of a number of instances where a neighbouring CO has taken over control of another Btn. due to the 'failings' of said Btn's original top man. I dare say this is one of those cases.

A prime example of 'after war histories' being at odds with the facts would be the story of 2nd Inniskillings on March 21 1918 ... if you read Fall's Divisional History and the Inniskilling's history, you will read a 'last man last round' account. In reality, the btn were cut off in forward zone and, as they say, there wasn't much down for them.

Thus, their CO gets a note to say they put up a stiff defence .. then the men under his command troop out and into German captivity.

I only use the above as an example of the kind of 'let's be nice to the chaps' accounts which can so often appear in the post war histories written 'for the boys'.

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Mick,

The officer may have had a case of the funks, or not. Its difficult to say. Just because his battalion suffered a reversal does not mean that he was a bad officer. The other officer may have been given orders as the 'better' or 'senior' officer to take control as the man on the ground by the Brigade commander. Not again necesserily a reflection on the other officer.

I can recall two brigades of 21st division in March/April 1918 being pooled together and Brig Gen Gater was put in charge. he was a New Army officer. The other officer was a regular officer of some years experience, but who had only just joined the division. I am sure, whilst Gater was good, that the Div commander made this decision made on the fact he knew Gater better and thus what to expect.

It is no surprise that the annual makes no mention of the incident. It would not really wish to reflect this expected poor conduct.

Did he go off to die? Hard to say. He may just have gone off to lead his battalion.

You may never find out, I suspect the truth lies in between. He may not have flunked but may simply not been up to the job. As a T officer was he of dugout age do you know? What was the date of this incident?

regards

Arm

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Arm,

He was in his mid forties. He'd been the CO of the battalion for some time. Injured a couple of times as well. The officer of the other battalion [of the same rank] turned up, took control and turned the troops back towards the front line. I just thought that would have been a humiliating experience for him. It was April 1918.

In the war diaries and Regimental Annual of the replaced [if he was] officer's unit, it mentions one withdrawal, and one main counter-attack, when it seems there were actually two withdrawals, if this other battalion's war diary is correct.

It does actually say in a seperate chapter, regarding that particular battalion, that he was mortally wounded leading a small unsuccessful counter-attack. [soon after the 'visit', according to the times stated] It was just this wording on a different page of the 'Annual' that caught my attention. I thought it was a strange thing to say given that the annual is normally quite specific and 'matter of fact' regarding injuries etc, and deaths of other officers of similar rank [which occured in the previous fortnight] were not spoken of in this way.

Perhaps the Author of the Annual got bored and just got a bit carried away, and there's nothing in it at all. But I thought those special words, plus the facts of that day, hinted at something.

Mick.

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Thanks for the extra information.

April 1918 was a very trying time as I am sure you know. It sounds like the brigade commander was a little concerned with a withdrawl and sent across a commander he perhaps had more confidence in to stem the tide.

You may be correct, that the other officer took this as a slight and resolved to get back his honour. It may not have been his intention to die heroically, but to gain a good reputation to expunge what he saw as a slight.

I wonder if the author of the annual knew the officer? Otherwise it may have been a bit of hearsay passed down the years.

Anyway I guess the truth will remain cloaked in the years.

regards

Arm

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