Archive for January, 2010

Private Frederick Sharp

On 17 April 1915 the British attacked Hill 60 with a view to taking the position.At 1905 local time 5 mines were detonated under the summit and as the debris settled C Coy of the 1st Royal West Kents attacked the hill,cheering as they went.

The hill and the positions there-upon had been almost demolished by the mines and the British quickly took the trenches and set about preparing their own defences.Sgt Stroud of  C C oy takes up the story: “We met with almost no resistance when we got into the German trenches,the effect of the explosions having killed or stunned the enemy.We found a German officer partly buried and some of the men at once began to dig him out.He rewarded them,when released,by drawing his revolver and shooting one of them.Needless to say he met his just desserts.”

The records of The Royal West Kents show only one casualty with a date of death of 17 April 1915: Pte Frederick Sharp.It must be assumed that he was the unfortunate Good Samaritan of Hill 60.His name is now commemorated on Panels 45 and 47 of The Menin Gate Memorial.

The Menin Gate Memorial, May 09

Private Francis James Blake

Hill 60 was barely bigger than a football field and at one point the Germans brought more than 500 guns to bear upon it.That units not only survived but fought in this hell is astonishing.

One such unit was the 1st Bedfords.They fought to hold Hill 60 during the 19th,20th and 21st of April 1915.Reduced to a fighting reserve of just 20 men they ran forward to support the line and almost certain annihalation.One of their officers,a Lt Webb, was heard to cry out:  “Anyway it will be a glorious death.”

The 1st Bedfords lost 421 men killed,wounded and missing on the slopes of Hill 60.One of those was Francis Blake from Luton who had been killed by a shell on the morning of the 19th of April.His name can be seen on Panels 31 and 33 of The Menin Gate Memorial.


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Pte Russell

Born in 1871 in Perthshire, Alexander Russell had enlisted in 1900 in The Black Watch and fought in the Boer War.At the end of 1902 he was declared unfit for further service overseas and invalided back to the Regimental Depot in Perth.He was finally discharged in 1912 and sought employment in the Singer Works in Kilbowie.However he maintained ties with military life by signing up as a piper with the Dumbartonshire Territorials.

When war broke out in 1914 he immediately enlisted again,this time into the Argylls. As a piper, he would also have been employed by his battalion as a medic and while bravely attending to a wounded comrade in No Man’s Land he was himself shot and killed.This brave man is remembered on Panels 42 and 44 of The Menin Gate Memorial.

The Menin Gate Memorial,May 2009

Cpl Patterson

William Patterson was a veteran of the South African Brigade. He had served throughout the war,being wounded in the slaughter at Delville Wood and had also survived the disaster at Marrieres Wood.

Unfortunately he did not survive the Battle of the Lys.He was killed leading his men near the entrance to Messines village. His name is listed on Panels 15,16 and 16a of The Menin Gate Memorial

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Private A Duncan

After a series of attacks in the period 27 March – 3 April the British forces had finally secured a position which provided observation of the German lines.However this position was very precarious and the job of improving the defences fell to the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division.The scene was hellish with no continuous trenches,no parapets,water,mud and dead and wounded British soldiers all around.

From the 4th of April the Canadians were shelled incessantly and their losses were one man in two. By the 5th of April the situation had become extremely critical,the 27th Battalion had virtually ceased to exist and the 28th were sent to relieve them.As they did the Germans struck and in less than 3 hours they had recovered all the ground they had lost between 27 March and 3rd April.

The Canadians lost 1373 men in a 14 day period in early April 1916,among them Private A Duncan.He is remembered on Panels 24,26,28 and 30 of The Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate Memorial,Feb 09

Rifleman HG Adams

Following a highly successful raid on German positions opposite Ravine Wood on 20 February 1917 a similar operation was planned on the 7th of April.However the Germans had learned their lesson and were not about to allow a repeat.

As the 18th London Irish attacked in the Hill 60 sub-sector the Germans began shelling them and soon brought up reserve troops.The casualties from the resultant fighting were heavy on both sides and while the Irish did manage to capture 18 prisoners they did so at a cost of  160 officers and men. One of those men was Henry George Adams from Rotherhithe,whose name can be seen on Panel 54 of the Menin Gate Memorial.

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Second Lieutenant Boddy

During the attack on St Eloi the 4th Royal Fusiliers were caught by heavy machine gun fire as soon as they left their parapets. They were also hampered by massive craters which had been left by the mines detonated prior to the attack.The Fusiliers veered off course as a result and the attack became very disjointed. Lieutenant George Boddy was killed in the initial assault.His name is now listed on Panels 6 and 8 of the Menin Gate Memorial.

Menin Gate Memorial, Feb 09

Private Hiram Ashford Southgate DCM

As the 2nd Suffolks attacked near St Eloi they realised that part of a trench on the right edge of their sector was still held by the Germans.Lieutenant HP Gardam led a party of bombers to clear this but after 20 yards came under heavy machine gun fire and were repulsed.

Private Southgate,recently awarded the DCM,attempted to storm the main barricade in the position but was cut to pieces almost instantly.Hiram Ashford Southgate is now listed on Panel 21 of the Menin Gate Memorial.

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Walter Green,Panel 53, The Menin Gate Memorial

Private Green

The 1st Wiltshires, along with the 3rd Worcesters,were part of the first major offensive of the war at Neuve Chappelle .They were to attack Spanbroek Mill at Wijtshaete.On the morning of the 12th of March the British guns were unable to observe their own fire due to the misty conditions.As a result the bombardment was postponed but then the mist began to clear.

However favourable reports of advances to the south at Neuve Chappelle ensured that the attack would go ahead.As the 2 battalions rose from the trenches and waterlogged positions they were massacred by machine gun fire.A small party of the Worcesters made it into German positions but had to abandon them later that night.The Wiltshires never made it that far.

The Worcesters lost 47 killed,99 wounded and 32 missing. The Wiltshires lost 29 killed,45 wounded and 12 missing.

One of those killed was Walter Green of Wallop near Salisbury.Walter had survived the Boer War but was killed in the mire at Spanbroekmolen.His body was found and buried nearby by his comrades but lost in later fighting.  His name is  recorded on Panel 53 of the Menin Gate Memorial.

Last Post Plaque,Menin Gate Memorial

Lieutenant McKinnon

General Plumer ,Commander of the 2nd Army,decided that an attack should be made to recover the Bluff which had been lost on 14 February 1916.The units which were ordered to accomplish this were the 4th Royal Fusiliers and the 1st Northumberlands.

At 0415 on the 27th of March six mines were blown under the German positions which the 2 British units soon rushed.The position was taken quickly thanks to the dazed state of the defenders but the Germans were masters of recovering quickly and counter-attacking. The vicious fight soon became a battle of hand-grenades and bomb throwing.Eventually the Northumberlands  repulsed the Germans and hold their hard fought positions.

Among this killed was Lieutenant Charles Thompson,he had been killed in the bomb fighting around the mine craters.His name is listed on Panels 8 and 12 of The Menin Gate Memorial.

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