By the start of November 1914 Grandad's involvement in the Great War was over as far as active service was concerned. The news cutting from the "Derby Daily Express" (left), dated 23rd October shows him back in Derby, albeit briefly, and on his way to Hospital - probably in Chester.
In the absence of his service records this is a very useful little cutting as it tells us where he was wounded - in the right arm - and where he was wounded - at La Bassée!. His home was at 145 Siddalls Road, just a few metres from the Station, allowing Grandma Emma to visit him on the platform, which must have been a rare privilege.
Grandad recovered from his wounds to a degree, but had to be admitted to Hospital in Chester for 10 days in February 1915, suffering from "dyspepsia". Whilst these days that would not be considered a major issue, in 1915 it warranted a lengthy Hospital stay.
November - December 1914
Derby Daily Express cutting
Click on image to enlarge
During November the 1st Battalion was involved in what became officially known as the First Battle of Ypres
This was by now the third stage:
The Battle of Langemarck - 21st - 24th October 1914
The Battle of Gheluvelt - 29th - 31st October 1914
The Battle of Nonne Bosschen - 11th November 1914
Click to view Map of Ypres Salient
The extract on the left is taken from one of the few surviving pages of Grandad's Military records and shows the dates of his stay in hospital in Chester from the 11th to 20th February 1915.
Another surviving extract, from the page opposite his Hospital details, appears to state that he is ".. excluded from France on account of his stomach trouble", and also that a "Bismuth diet" had been prescribed.
(Bismuth subsalicylate was used as an antidiarrheal and to treat some other gastro-intestinal diseases.)
The evidence would seem to suggest that had it not been for this illness Grandad was destined to be returned to his Battalion in France, probably just in time to take part in the 2nd Battle of Ypres in February 1915!
In addition to his Medals Grandad also received the "Silver War Badge" (left) awarded to all of those military personnel who were discharged as a result of sickness or wounds contracted or received during the war.
ã G E Conway, 2010
Grandad's 'Medal Card' (right) shows that he was discharged from the Army, presumably due to wounds received and/or subsequent illness, on 29th March 1916. He received the 1914 Star, "With Clasps and Roses", the War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Click on image to enlarge
The First Battle of Ypres:
Source: The Probert Encyclopaedia
(Click map to enlarge)
Having come out of the line at the end of October, the 1st Battalion spent the first 4 days of November in reserve 1½ miles South of Dranoutre, a village located about 11.5 kilometres (7.1 miles) south of Ypres (Ieper).
On the 4th Captain J A Busfield took over command of the Battalion with Lieutenant T L Frost returning to his duties of Adjutant. Captain G P Pollock-Hodsoll of the 3rd Battalion, The Sufflolk Regiment was attached for duty.
Crookenden, page 30, summarised the First Battle of Ypres as follows:
"Although names are given to periods of fighting, it is not possible to describe them as battles. It was a period of continuous, prolonged, ruthless encounter hardly interrupted at night. Our troops had no rest. They were out-numbered, out-gunned and opposed by a determined, skilful and implacable enemy. The fighting was largely individual. The casualties were so heavy that units lost their identity and were roughly grouped under brigades. The troops fought in shallow trenches and shell holes, and in terrible weather conditions. In addition to wound and death casualties, they suffered from frozen feet and knees and from rheumatism. Repulse of German attacks was a daily commonplace and receives hardly any mention in the war diary. Hourly shelling, to which no reply was possible, owing to shortage of ammunition, passes without comment also.
Only at night could supplies be brought up and wounded removed. As soon as dusk fell, Ypres was crowded with vehicles passing in and out.
The regiment lost more men in the Ypres salient than on any other front."
At 7.15 a.m. on November 5th the Battalion marched to Ypres to relieve the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment and took up position about 4 miles (c. 6.5 kms.) East South-East of the town, holding 350 yards (320 m) of trenches According to the War Diary these trenches were just South of the 6th Kilometre stone on the Menin Road.
Although they didn't know it at the time they were to remain in the trenches for over a fortnight, before being relieved by the Worcester Regiment on the 19th.
On the 7th the Battalion suffered very heavy shell fire in the morning, and the German infantry attacked at 2.30 p.m. 'C' Company were sent to reinforce the Regiment on the left and eventually the enemy was repulsed with 25 captured.
The Battalion remained in their trenches for the next two days. Shelling apparently was delayed due to the weather, "commencing later owing to morning mist". There was no infantry attack although, in an example of 'friendly fire', 2 men were wounded by our own shells falling short.
On the 8th 2/Lieutenant Hands joined on promotion from Sergeant in the 1/East Surrey Regiment. The following day the shelling was light. The War Diary reported that a night attack expected so a good deal of rifle fire took place that night.
The Battle of Nonne Bosschen:
The Battle, the third stage of the First Battle of Ypres, was the final attempt by the Prussian guard to break through. Crookenden (page 31) says that they fought "under the eyes of the Kaiser" in a final supreme bid to drive "The Contemptible British Army" into the sea.
Map of Cheshire positions at Nonne Bosschen
Having served in France between 5 August and 22 November 1914, Grandad was truly "An Old Contemptible", and a Member of the Association.
He was also entitled to wear the bar to his 1914 Star Medal, awarded to al those who served under fire with the original British Expeditionary Force.
On the 11th November the battalion still occupied the position shown in the Map above, astride the Menin Road, some 6 kilometres from Ypres. At dawn on that day the German artillery began to lay down a tremendous barrage of fire.
In the Battalion War Diary a note adds that 'the enemy appeared to be massing in a wood south of our position, but our shells scattered them, and they were easily repulsed by our rifle fire, with heavy casualties to them'. Other units in the line at this time were also involved in severe fighting and a break through was prevented by a superb action involving a composite unit named 1st Guards Brigade, under Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence. This brigade contained battalions from the Scots Guards, Camerons and Black Watch regiments, and had around 800 men, plus The King's Regiment and the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. In all they were outnumbered three to one by the Germans.
It should be remembered that at this time no additional reinforcements had arrived since Voilaines and it was not without considerable difficulty that the remains of Grandad's Battalion held on to the 350 yards (320 m) of trench allotted to it.
Despite the reporting of "light shelling" eight men were killed on the 9th November and all are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
about these brave men.
On the following days there were still spasmodic attacks by the Germans, particularly against the Klein Zillebeke positions without success. The shelling of Ypres continued until the Cloth Hall and the Church of St Martin were in ruins. Eventually French reinforcements came up to relieve the exhausted British troops from the trenches they had held for four weeks. The weather had changed to high winds and snow blizzards and, in a tempest, the First Battle of Ypres died away.
The "Old Contemptible" Regular soldiers of the original BEF had suffered 90% casualties during the fighting of 1914 and, to all intents and purposes, the BEF had ceased to exist. The few who were left held the line through winter, together with the ‘Saturday Afternoon Soldiers’ of the Territorial Force.
Saturday, November 14th was the worse day for Battalion losses. The Battalion was still in the same trenches but in order to conform with the Division on its right, an order was given to retire from the advance line of trenches and take up another line about 150 yards (about 135 m.) to the rear. This was commenced at midday and completed by 4.00 p.m. when the final line was held. The War Diary states: "The enemy were pressing on all the time and consequently our casualties were rather heavy".
In fact 2/Lieutenant H R Stables, of the 5/Royal Fusiliers (attached to the Battalion), was killed and 2/Lieutenant E G Carr wounded. 30 N.C.O.s and men were reported killed, wounded or missing. Two German patrols of 15 and 7 men were shot down just outside the trenches.
about 2nd Lieutenant Harold Rolleston Stables about the NCOs and men killed on the 14th
The 1st Battalion remained in the trenches generally suffering shell fire and sniping until the 19th. On that day it started to snow and freeze but they were finally relieved by the Worcester Regiment at 8.00 p.m. and went into reserve dugouts.
Even so the Battalion lost 2 more men killed in action on the 20th.
Between the 5th and the 20th November the war Diary reported that the Battalion had lost 35 killed, 99 wounded and 65 missing, before going on the 21st for rest at Locre. The brigade War diary for the 24th states that 'the Cheshires only 230 strong, suffering very much from swollen feet and knees and rheumatism, but none from chest complaints, or colds or coughs. But they cannot get their boots on after the march in and many are quite crippled'.
Upon arrival at Locre the Battalion had only three officers. The Battalion Diary stated on the 22nd that : "Wet & frost caused much rheumatism & a certain amount of frost bite which caused bad marching among many."
By the 17th December 1914, however, the battalion had rested, received reinforcements and was altogether ready to return to the trenches.
"A View in Flanders behind the Lines, Showing Locre and the Tops of Dug-Outs"
Drawing and watercolour on paper, 1916, by Muirhead Bone (Public Domain)
The ruins of Ypres' Cloth Hall'
The following day (27th) the War Diary reports that whilst in their billets they were inspected and congratulated on their work by Field Marshall Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief.
Billeted at Bailleul:
On the 24th November at 11.45 a.m. the Battalion marched to Bailleul (36½ miles or 58½ kms.) and were billeted there to act as Corps troops, remaining until 8th December when they marched from Bailleul to Dranoutre and formed part of the Brigade Reserve.
Whilst at Bailleul, on three consecutive days between 26th - 28th November, they were visited by VIPs.
On the 26th the Battalion furnished a guard for H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.
His Majesty King George V at the front
(From original postcard)
Sir John French
Again on the 28th they were inspected & congratulated on their work by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, Commanding 2nd Army Corps.
On Sunday 29th November Captain H S Hodgkin took over command of the Battalion to replace Captain Johnson Athinson Busfield, who had commanded the Battalion throughout the Ypres campaign. Captain Hodgkin was joined by Captain A E Harry of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.
Captain Hodkin, who entered France on November 5th, was transferred later to the 4th Dragoon Guards, before joining 2/6th Battalion Sherwood Forester, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and earning the D.S.O.
Captain Busfield had entered France on 22nd October from the Reserve of Officers. He remained with the 1st Battalion, and, as Major, was wounded at Albert on 23rd August 1918. He also later achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Lieutenant William Grenfell Riversdale Elliott was captured at Audregnies on 24th August. The War Diary for that day cites his actions as: "Lieut W G R Elliot behaved with great gallantry in returning during the retirement and carrying away a wounded man under intensely hot fire, he being shot through ankles when within 3 yards of the sunken road to which he eventually took this man - Lt Elliot was left on the field". He was Mentioned in Despatches, 19th October 1914. He returned to the Regiment after the War and attained the rank of Major. His DSO Citation is in the Gazette - 9 December 1914
Whilst still billeted at Bailleul the Battalion received news on the 6th December that Lieutenant W. G. R. Elliott and 2/Lieutenant H. N. Atkinson had been awarded the D.S.O.
2/Lieutenant Henry Noel Atkinson served unscathed through the fighting at Mons, Le Cateau and The Aisne until 22 October 1914, near La Bassée, at Voilaines, where after the battle he was reported officially "missing" and was believed to have been captured. He was thought to have been wounded and was reported, unofficially, to have been taken to a French hospital at Douai, which was eventually taken by the Germans.
He was awarded a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) - London Gazette, 1 December 1914. His citation read: "For conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire from both flanks by collecting a few men and checking the enemy, thereby facilitating the retirement of his comrades."
HRH Prince of Wales
2/Lt. H N Atkinson
(Click image to read more)
The parading before dignitaries continued unabashed, and the day after hearing of the award of the 2 D.S.O.s the Battalion paraded and was received by H.M. King George V.
On Sunday 6th December, after church parade, the much-needed reinforcements of 64 N.C.O.s and men under 2/Lieutenant Vance arrived.
On the 8th December the Battalion marched from Bailleul to Dranoutre and formed the Brigade Reserve, and were duly inspected again the following day by Brigadier General Count Gleichen, K.C.V.O., etc. (left),
The stay in Dranoutre was short, marching from Dranoutre to St Jans Cappel on the 10th, and after a week of route marches and Battalion parades, returned to the trenches on December 17th.
This was not the last the Battalion was to see of Bailleul, however. After 13 days in the trenches at Wulverghan, they marched back to Bailleul on the 29th and "celebrated" New Year 1914 by going ".. for a route march".
The little town of "Wulverghan" (as named in the War Diary) is now called Wulvergem and the Battalion spent 11 days in the trenches, half a Battalion at a time. The Diary records that "A" and "C" companies would occupy the trenches one day, "B" and "D" the next probably on Wulverghem - Messines road and in the River Douve valley.
A Diary entry on the 19th December states: "Party of 5th Bn. Cheshire Regt. (Territorials) accompanied Bn. in trenches." In fact this is most likely the 6th (Territorial) Battalion who were in Stockport in August 1914, part of the Cheshire Brigade, Welsh Division. On 10 November 1914 they left the Division and landed in France and on the 17 December 1914 were attached to 15th Brigade, 5th Division, alongside the 1st Battalion. On the 11th it commenced duty in the Wulverghem sector.
A number of this Battalion were very young and suffered 8 casualties Killed or died of wounds before the end of the year.
The one soldier of the Cheshire Regiment buried here belonged to the 1/6 Battalion which took part in the now famous "Christmas Truce" and maybe even the football match in the Wulvergem area.
Two survivors of the 6th Cheshires, Private Ernie Williams and C.S.M. Frank Naden, both claimed in interviews to the TV and the press that had taken part in one such truce and kick-about in Wulverghem.
Wulvergem Church (left) was destroyed by shellfire and rebuilt in its present form in 1925.
... about the Christmas Truce and the stories of these two soldiers
Finally, on Christmas Eve 1914, the full complement of the Battalion was restored when Captain Lloyd, Lieutenant Mares, 2/Lieutenant Guy Leslie Hazeon, 2/Lieutenant Rhodes and 2/Lieutenant Michener with 444 N.C.O.s and men joined from England.
Captain Frank Lewis Lloyd had been wounded during the attack on Voilaines on 17th October 1914. He was among 6 Officers killed when the Germans launched a surprise attack during the Battle of Loos - probably on 3rd October 1915.
Click on image to read more about the gift.
On Christmas Day Brigadier General Count Gleichen was again present to inspect the new draft. The Battalion also received their Majesties Presents and Christmas Cards whilst in the trenches at Wulverghan.
These included the now famous and highly prized brass box from Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'.
Shortly before the end of the year, on 29th December 1914, the now rejuvenated Battalion marched back to their billets in Bailleul and ended the year with a route march on the 31st!
So ended 1914, the first year of the Great War, that should have been "over by Christmas". Grandad was back home, his War over. He had marched into action as part of the 1st Battalion's 26 Officers and 980 NCOs and men as it headed into action to meet the German Armies near Mons just four months earlier.
By the end of the year 5 of the Officers were dead, killed in action, 8 more wounded and captured and 7 captured unwounded. (Two more of the original complement of Officers were to be killed in 1915.) 96 NCOs and other ranks had been killed in action; 10 died of wounds and 5 more were to die later, mostly as prisoners of war.
490 NCOs and men were captured on August 24th alone and countless others later, so many the War Diary could not list a figure. Even these statistics, horrendous as they were, did not include Grandad, and the many like him, who having been wounded were in hospitals in Britain and France.
The Old Contemptibles had done their job, but as Crookenden (p. 32) was to note after the Battalion was inspected by the Prince of Wales, the Commanders and even the King:
"They had certainly earned all the praise they got, but alas,