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Remembered Today:

Fight To The Death


PBI
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Reading about W.Elstobs Actions at Manchester Hill in 1918,and His Citation for the V.C...are there any other Accounts of Allied or German Troops Fighting it out until the Bitter End,and whose History remains Little Known ?.

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Ah, but you have to read the popular account in the context of the actual history.

The fight at Manchester Hill was "D" Company and the Battalion HQ troops. The other three companies had put their hands up pretty quickly (sensible blokes that they were).

Elstob's last message to Brigade was "The Manchester Regiment will hold Manchester Hill to the last man". Err, no. Just after that, he was killed and everyone else immediately and sensibly put their hands up.

The fiction of the "fight to the last man" is often repeated about this and other actions. In fact, 16th Manchester (at full strength) lost only 76 men killed. The "wiping out" was in the surrenders.

John

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Lt. Spremberg a German anti tank specialist describes the crews of some stranded British tanks fighting it out to the last man.

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Thanks for the Contributions Gents.John i have read in more than one account that the Victorious Germans Stripped Elstobs Body of its Uniform etc,etc,for Trophys are there any reliable Accounts that back this up ?,and what was the point in Stripping the Body ?.

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Elstob's body was never recovered, AFAIK, although his watch was, so perhaps the Landsers didn't trophy-hunt very effectively.

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are there any reliable Accounts that back this up ?,

I've never heard of this, Russ.

Michael Stedman does a good talk on Elstob and another chap (whose name I forget but may be the Hubert Worthington who Stedman mentions in "Manchester Pals"). IIRC, other chap was a good friend of Elstob's and later made strenuous efforts to find Elstob's body after Manchester Hill (obviously without success). He was also very, very instrumental in organising a lobby of "influential people" for Elstob to get the VC.

I don't intend to demean his award. Elstob was clearly a brave man whose personal example was the best leadership his garrison at the redoubt could have.

J

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I think - stress think - the souvenir episode may be mentioned in Middlebrook's Kaisers Battle

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Not that I can see, Des. I had a nosy there, "Manchester Pals" and the Bn history before posting.

Russ - I'd be interested in any pointers towards the stuff you've read on this. It's the sort of thing that may well have happened and just not been documented by the Brits (assuming those taken prisoner had been marched away).

J

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Just looked through Gerald Gliddons Book VCs of The First World War "Spring Offensive 1918" and on Page 17 i found this Reference "Later His Body was stripped,probably for Souvenirs".Hope this Helps John.

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post-7805-1211568583.jpg

Elstobs Name on the Christs Hospital School War Memorial,Horsham,Sussex.

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I've been noseying around other writings of this action, and apparently there were survivors from D Company and the Bn staff holding out in Brown Quarry for over an hour after the death of Elstob. They were invited to surrender, refused, and were all killed.

I note that mention is made of "only 76 killed", but by the rule-of-thumb of 3 wounded for every fatality, that would give total casualties for the 16th of 304, or getting on for half the Battalion. However, I can't readily find a figure for the total captured that differentiates between captured and/or wounded.

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interesting topic

Manchester Hill was named because the 2nd Battalion captured it in 1917 btw nothing to do with the 16th's defence

Elstob had already expended his revolver ammunition on a german bombing party so he took up a rifle, going from point to point to encourage up his men, he was wounded three times according to Sgt Arrundale, including being blown 5 yards by a 77mm shell

a staff officer at brigade headquarters reported:-

...At about 2pm he said that most of his men were killed or wounded, (including himself), that they were all dead beat, that the germans had got into the redoubt and hand to hand fighting was going on. he was still quite cheery. At 3.30 he was spoken to on the telephone and said that very few were left and the end was nearly come. After that no answer could be got

the 16th battn casualty report for the 21st march reads

killed ---- wounded 8 missing 593

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However, I can't readily find a figure for the total captured that differentiates between captured and/or wounded.

Rob

I agree. I don't there is a figure of those "missing" differentiating between killed, wounded and captured and captured but unwounded.

Stedman writes in "Manchester Pals" - ".......74 other ranks and four officers had been killed this day. However, very significantly more men had been taken prisoner, more than five hundred were certainly "in the bag". " Elsewhere he notes that 12 officers were amongst those prisoner.

John

(PS: Russ - thanks for the info. Now, I wonder where Glidden got his info from....)

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Ah, but you have to read the popular account in the context of the actual history.

The fight at Manchester Hill was "D" Company and the Battalion HQ troops. The other three companies had put their hands up pretty quickly (sensible blokes that they were).

from stedman 'manchester pals'

at 11.00am ...As a fighting unit, A company had been virtually wiped out.

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Elstob's last message to Brigade was "The Manchester Regiment will hold Manchester Hill to the last man". Err, no. Just after that, he was killed and everyone else immediately and sensibly put their hands up.

John

and from middlebrook 'the kaisers battle' manchester hill

'the german regimental history pays great tribute to the defenders, particularly to one post in the quarry behind the hill which refused to surrender and whose members all had to be killed by hand grenades; perhaps these men were with the lone lewis gun heard firing after the main action had finished'

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The fiction of the "fight to the last man" is often repeated about this and other actions. In fact, 16th Manchester (at full strength) lost only 76 men killed. The "wiping out" was in the surrenders.

John

according to the 16th battalion history there were 8 officers and 160 ORs in the garrison of the 'hill'

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A refusal to surrender didn't always result in a fight to the death, as the following incident from March 1918 from Middlebrook's The First Day on the Somme demonstrates:

Philip Howe, still in the 10th West Yorks and now a captain, had to retreat over the old Somme battlefield. At one stage, whilst in charge of a small rearguard, he found that the Germans were all around him. Neither side opened fire but the Germans called on him to surrender. Howe shouted back "No!" and, surprisingly, the Germans did not shoot but allowed Howe and his men to go. Both sides were sick of killing.

ciao,

GAC

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according to the 16th battalion history there were 8 officers and 160 ORs in the garrison of the 'hill'

Indeed. Total battalion strength at the beginning of the day (as per Stedman) was 23 officers and 717 ORs.

"A" and "B" Coys were deployed in the outpost line. Two platoons of "C" were located some way to the rear of these, and on the flanks of the redoubt on the "hill" itself, in support. The other two platoons were in Frencilly-Selency. Their role was to be counter-attack but, of course, there was never any real chance of being able to bring that together. Many of "D" Coy were in the redoubt itself, with four MGC crews, and with scattered parties providing cover, not least to Battalion HQ in dugouts in the quarry, immediately behind the "hill". Stedman's book carries a good map of the deployments

As we know, "A" and "B" were quickly surrounded and overwhelmed almost by surprise, the mist masking the actual German infantry advance through and round them. It would seem that "C" lasted little longer. By about 9am, the Germans had reached the redoubt and were engaged with the posts immediately to the front of it.

I would assume that the speed of the attack meant that it was pretty well impossible for the forward companies to get away any wounded and most of those injured must have been taken prisoner along with those forced to surrender. It'd perhaps be interesting to look through SDGW for the "died of wounds" in the days following the attack to see where they are buried and if that gives any clues to whether they died as prisoners.

It seems as though we can draw some conclusions about what happened to the men from the various accounts, as follows. Of the 740:

78 - known to have been killed

500 (approx) - Captured (Stedman's "in the bag")

162 (approx) - the remainder - either at duty or evacuated as wounded

As an aside, 17th Manchester, in the Battle Zone, suffered very much a similar fate the next day, being surrounded with most of "B", "C" and "D" Coys being taken prisoner. My grandfather, Tom Brough, with "A" Company in Goodman Redoubt, was lucky to have been able to leg it before they were also overun after they'd used all the ammo.

John

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I've had a trawl through SDGW and CWGC in the vain hope that there might be some useful info that we could make deductions from, but there isn't in my view, but these are the results.

Of the 76 KIA, 72 have no known grave. The other four are in a concentration cemetery at Holnon. Only two of them have a company mentioned - one from "A" and "C".

There are nine "died of wounds" between the 21st and the end of the month. Obviously it's impossible to know if they were wounded on the 21st or later. Looking at place of burial, I'd suggest three died as prisoners. Two died at a CCS. Two more are commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, suggesting a death close to the fighting (one on the 21st, the other on the 24th). The eighth died at a stationery hospital. The final one is buried at the cemetery at Holnon - he is the only one where a company is mentioned - in his case "C" (might this suggest that if the five might have been originally buried near to each other then the others might also be "C"?).

J

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not all the men on manchester hill,were 16th batt,2 companies of the 19th batt were posted to the 16th batt a few weeks previous,some of them were with col elstob,on manchester hill.

they may appear in their own casualty rolls instead of the 16ths.

mack

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