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.
[C L I C K picture for larger version]
The extract on the right is taken from one of the few surviving pages of Grandad’s Military Service Record and shows the dates of his stay in hospital in Chester from the 11th to 20th February 1915.
The other 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. (N.B. 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!
He received the 1914 Star, “With Clasps and Roses“, the War Medal and the Victory Medal.
The rosette on the Medal Bar is the equivalent of the “5th Aug – 22nd Nov 1914” Clasp on the 1914 Star, signifying that he had been under fire as part of the British Expeditionary Force during that period. For that reason the 1914 Star is often referred to as the “Mons Star“.
The First Battle of Ypres
During November the 1st Battalion was involved in what became officially known as the First Battle of Ypres, which by the start of November was in its 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
On the 4th Captain Johnson Atkinson Busfield (see below) took over the command of the Battalion from Lieutenant. Thomas Laurence Frost, who took over duties of Adjutant. Captain George Bertram Pollock-Hodsoll, 3/Suffolk Regiment was attached for duty.
Captain George Bertram Pollock-Hodsoll was killed in action just 3 days later.
(CLICK map to enlarge)
[N.B. The Medal Index Card of Captain Johnson Atkinson Busfield, D.S.O., M.i.D., shows that he was posted to the BEF in France from the Reserve of Officers on 22nd October 1914. His home address was Glanhanddhu, Brecon, Wales. He was promoted to Major and was wounded at Albert on 23rd August 1918. Details of his D.S.O., when Acting Lt. Col., are found in the London Gazette, 2nd December 1918.
Mentioned in Despatches: Captain Busfield was one of 18 Officers and Other Ranks ‘mentioned’ in Field Marshall J.D.P. French’s Despatch of 15th January 1915. (London Gazette Issue 29072 published on the 16th February 1915. Page 1662)]
At 7.15 a.m. on the 5th November 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 km. 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.
Despite the reporting of only “light shelling” eight men were killed on the 9th November and all are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
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.
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 Harold Rolleston 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 26th the Battalion furnished a guard for H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (left).
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 Harry S. Hodgkin took over command of the Battalion to replace Captain Johnson Atkinson 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 Hodgkin, who entered France on 5th November, was transferred later to the 4th Dragoon Guards, before joining 2/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, 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
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 Violaines, 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.
“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“
Sources: Most of the quotes in the above account are referenced to Arthur Crookenden’s book: “The History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War” [ASIN: B074V8DM97], and “Ever Glorious: The Story of the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment”: Bernard Rigby [ISBN-13: 978-0952473152]