Bellewaarde 16th June 1915

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Bellewaarde 16th June 1915

Postby tonyosb » Sun Jul 22, 2007 7:47 pm

Hello everyone, I am interested in the action in Bellewaarde 16th June 1915. I have read the stuff on the net does anybody have any information about where I could get the view from the 3rd Worcestershires who were part of the 7th Brigade with the HAC, 2 Royal Irish Rifles and 1/4th Lincolnshires ?
thx very much
tony.
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Postby scully » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:11 pm

Hi Tony,

The following is taken from the Regimental History:

THE ATTACK ON BELLEWAERDE
The 3rd Worcestershire left their bivouac at Busse Boom on the evening of June 15th, marched forward by Kruisstraat and the Lille Gate of Ypres and reached the assembly trenches south of Witte Poort Farm just before midnight. The Battalion was to be in the fourth line of the attack. In front of them the H.A.C. were in immediate support of the 9th Brigade.

At 2-50 a.m., after three hours of silent waiting in the darkness, came the blaze and thunder of the preliminary bombardment ; to which the enemy's guns swiftly replied. At 4-15 a.m. the battalions of the 9th Brigade advanced to the attack. As dawn broke over the battlefield the H.A.C. moved forward in support, and the Worcestershire moved up from their reserve positions across the Cambridge Road into the original British front line. In front of them a confused struggle was in progress. The attacking battalions had stormed the enemy's front trenches but after that the leading troops, pressing on too eagerly into the tangle of defences about Bellewaerde Farm, had been shelled by our own artillery. Around the Farm some fierce fighting was still in progress, but the bulk of the 9th Brigade had fallen back to the original German front line, which now was crowded with intermixed men of several battalions. All through the morning the struggle raged, as German reinforcements pushed their way into the fight. The enemy's gun-fire grew heavier every hour, and the 3rd Worcestershire, although not as yet actively engaged, suffered many casualties under the rain of heavy shells.

Midday came and still the issue of the fight on the Bellewaerde Spur hung in the balance. At 3-15 p.m. came orders for the Worcestershire to advance. The Battalion, together with the Royal Irish Rifles, was to push through the captured positions and storm the enemy's third line on the edge of Bellewaerde Lake. To prepare the way for that attack the British artillery opened a renewed bombardment. At 3-50 p.m. the guns lifted their fire, and "B" Company, led by the veteran Captain Maitland, followed by "C" Company under Captain Buckler, advanced to the attack.

The two Worcestershire companies went forward in extended order across the old "No Man's Land" and the captured German front line, making their way as best they could through the crowd of wounded and of disorganised troops who blocked the trenches. Beyond the captured trenches the two companies met a storm of fire. Both the company commanders were struck down and most of their men (noble work in rescuing the wounded was done by the Battalion stretcher-bearers; notably by Sergeant F. E. Lamb, who himself rescued five wounded men. His gallantry was rewarded with the D.C.M.). The remnants were forced to the ground, and took cover among some shattered trees to await support.

No support came. The crowded trenches behind the Worcestershire companies were further congested about 5 p.m. by the arrival of two new battalions sent up from the 14th Division (the 14th Division had just arrived in France), but those reinforcements could not advance. Success was impossible in face of the superiority of the German artillery, which now dominated the situation. From east, south and north the German batteries which ringed the Ypres Salient switched their fire on to the front of attack; and the upstanding Spur made an easy target. The seven thousand troops crowded in a space not more than a thousand yards square were pounded incessantly by heavy shells: and the losses were terrible. As sunset approached the German gunners 'redoubled their fire, as if determined to destroy the attackers before they had a chance to reorganise under cover of night. From 7 p.m. till 8-15 p.m. the German bombardment was intense, and observers counted an average of 90 shells a minute crashing down on the Spur. Before the bombardment ceased at nightfall, more than half the attacking troops had been killed or wounded. NOTE: War Diary of the 3rd Worc.:— "At about 7 p.m. the enemy opened a very heavy artillery bombardment on the captured trenches and our lines. Bombardment lasted till 8-15 p.m. and heavy casualties occurred, as many as 90 shells per minute being fired on our position," and also War Diary of the 7th Brigade:—" The shells were coming from three sides, and were falling at the rate of 80 to 100 per minute. Our losses were very heavy during this period and no doubt this was due to the very crowded state of our trenches. Gas shells were also fired……..”

That final slaughter was needless, for by 6 p.m. orders had been issued that the attack was not to be continued; the German front line had been gained and would be consolidated by fresh troops; the attacking battalions would be withdrawn. Those orders reached the firing line about 7-30 p.m. The troops were reorganized so far as was possible, and arrangements for the with¬drawal were made. The confusion and the terrific bombardment made the relief very difficult, and it was not until 11 p.m. that the positions held by the 3rd Worcestershire were taken over (by the Royal Scots of the 8th Brigade). The survivors of the Battalion reassembled near "Hell-fire Corner" and marched back down the Menin Road through Ypres to Vlamertinghe "men very exhausted," records the laconic Battalion Diary.

"The result of these operations" says the Brigade Diary "was the gain of 250 yards of ground on a front of 800 yards. Over 200 prisoners and 3 machine-guns were taken, and the enemy suffered severe losses"; but any losses the enemy may have suffered must have been light beside those of the attacking troops. The nine battalions of the 3rd Division lost more than 3,800 officers and men; and what such casualties meant may be realised when it is remembered that the whole operation did not cover a space of more than a thousand yards square. The 3rd Worcestershire alone lost over three hundred (see below); nearly half the Battalion's strength, including the Commanding Officer, Second-in-Command and Adjutant.

CASUALTIES: Three officers (Captain E. W. Buckler, Lieut. B. Muir and Lieut. R. N. Loring) and 30 men were killed, eleven officers (Lieut.-Colonel B. F. B. Stuart C.B., Captain J. P. S. Maitland, Captain S. A. Gabb (Adjutant), Lieut. F. S. Pearson, Lieut. C. H. B. Banks, Lieut. C. F. Baldwyn, Lieut. L. J. Vicarage, Lieut. H. H. Milward, Lieut. G. T. Bennett, Lieut. L. Walker, and Lieut. W. Walker) and 255 N.C.O's. and men were wounded. Twenty-four were reported missing; but "the missing men were undoubtedly killed" says the Battalion Diary "and were buried during the heavy bombardment by the enemy."

* * * * *

That action may be said to mark the close of the early fighting of 1915. Thenceforward no big offensive was undertaken by either side until the Autumn, and officers and men had opportunity to think over the lessons learnt; which, indeed, were plain enough.

At Neuve Chapelle a great success had been missed because the communications had been faulty and because the reserves available were not employed: at Aubers Ridge that mistake had been avoided, but the enemy's front line had not been effectively breached: at Bellewaerde neither of those errors had been made, but the attack had been made into a salient swept by fire, the enemy's supporting lines were not broken and his artillery had not been mastered.

Those were not new lessons for the British Army. Exactly that same sequence of mistakes had been made long before at Fontenoy, at Ticonderoga, and at Sebastopol: for the failure at Bellewaerde may perhaps be compared not inaptly with the failure at the Redan.
Those lessons had been forgotten: indeed the application of such past history to modern conditions was hardly realised. Khaki and high-explosive, machine-guns and barbed wire, had given the fighting a misleading appearance of novelty and had obscured the unchanging nature of the principles of war. It was widely said that new tactics must be evolved to suit the new conditions; and, in the endeavour to evolve a new system of tactics the lessons of the past had been put out of mind. Now slowly, very slowly, the British Army was again learning the same lessons by bitter experience; and the price of that experience was paid by the devoted officers and men of the Regiments of the Line.

Additional Notes:
Technically, this action is not reckoned as part of the "Battles of Ypres, 1915" but actually it was an outcome of those battles; and since the Regiment has been awarded the Battle-Honour "Ypres '15," for the presence of the 3rd Battalion in the prescribed battle-area, that Battle-Honour may reasonably be taken as commemorating this engagement.
______________________

Hope the above helps.

Regards,

Louis
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Bellewaarde

Postby tonyosb » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:43 pm

Scully,
Thank you very much for this information it is very helpful. I appreciate , the time you took in replying. I had not previously read this version. so it is interesting to me and will help.
thx very much
Tonyosb
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Bellewaarde 16th June 1915

Postby martinclift » Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:45 pm

Hi Tony.
I know this is a long shot as you only posted twice in 2007.

I am also researching this battle and putting together all the information from all regiments on both sides of the conflict.

Although I am looking at regimental diaries and casualty lists, I am also looking for information about individual soldiers who died or survived.

I hope you get in touch with the forum again

Martin
In Memory of L/Corporal 3555 Austin Frank Broughton 'W' Coy. 1st Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers. Died age 19 at Bellewaarde 16th June 1915
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Postby scully » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:52 pm

Hi Martin,

I have read your posts about Bellewaarde and note your interest.

If it helps I do have a copy of the Northumberland Fusiliers regimental history account covering this period (5th April to 16th June 1915) if this is of any help. You may already have this ?

Regards,

Louis (webmaster)
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16th June 1915 Bellewaarde

Postby martinclift » Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:20 pm

Hi Louis.

Many thanks for your reply to my post.

Thank you for the offer of the Northumberland diaries, I do however have a copy, but it's very kind of you.

I noticed your post dated 22nd July 2007 which gives a large amount of information regarding the Worcestershire regiment at the battle of Bellewaarde. That post goes a long way in giving me information that I can use (if it's O.K. with you) for my forthcoming website.

When people look at dates of battles in the Great War they tend to look at at the bigger picture, i.e. those that appeared to go on forever such as Ypres and the Somme.
I started looking into my great uncles service as I am a family historian. All I knew was that he died at Ypres 1915 at the age of 19, not much to go on and the fact that there were no living siblings to ask he had almost been forgotten. I now know, within a few hundred yards, where he fell and the circumstances that sourounded his death. The problem was I couldn't stop there.

I looked at all the Northumberland information such as books written about the NF at that battle, casualty lists, CWCG list to confirm and correct those casualty lists, MICs, Service and pension records, thie list goes on.
Again another problem, the NF were not the only regiment there so I needed to do the above type of research for all regiments so that I can make some sense of what happened.
I then decided to look at the German regiments and apply the research there as well. As you can see it's an obsession, or at least that's what my wife says.

So with all this why have I come to your forum. The details I really need are those about the individuals, the officers and men who were there, where they had been before and those that survived the war, what did they go on to do. I need this so that I can make the site more like a book or a film. I aim to follow the individuals, including my great uncle, through to the end.

I feel that this approach will be the best way to honour their memory so if there is any way you and your pals can help I would be most grateful.

Many thanks again for the offer.

Martin
In Memory of L/Corporal 3555 Austin Frank Broughton 'W' Coy. 1st Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers. Died age 19 at Bellewaarde 16th June 1915
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