Oldham Historical Research Group

1914 - 1918

Guardsman 21718,
Service No. 385
No. 2 Company
Killed in Action 31st July 1917

3rd Battle of Ypres
With many page transcriptions from 'The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918' by Sir Frederick Ponsonby, to recount the actual organisation & battles in which the Grenadiers, in particular the 4th Battalion, took part.
Pub. 1920 in 3 Volumes, .
from Volume 1
Part 1 ... Narrative Parts Index
This is the story, as much as I have been able to piece together, of my great uncle Edward Garside Whitehead, my grandmother's younger brother, known in the family as 'Ted', who died on the first day of the Battle of 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele), 31st July 1917. He was 21 years old.
Most of this story will be told through Ponsonby's book and selected War Diary transcriptions.

Skeleton family tree and story, HERE.

By the time of Christmas of 1914 it was clear the war was going to be more lengthy than most had anticipated and in January 1915, age 19, Edward decided to enlist and did so in Hollinwood.

Why Hollinwood? We have no answer ... maybe he was still in touch with relatives and friends in Oldham ... maybe he found himself working in the area ... who now knows.

The Whiteheads were a tall family ... more unusual in those times and Edward was 6ft. tall, as was his older brother and one of his sisters, my own grandmother.

He enlisted in the Grenadier Guards who were most often the tallest men (with a minimum height requirement). The regular 1st and 2nd Grenadier Guards Battalions had just suffered a severe mauling in the opening battles of the war and their numbers were down drastically ... might he have been encouraged into the Guards for that reason and because of his height or maybe he knew one or more of the several men from Oldham were already in the Grenadiers?

Like most of the early volunteers for the army the Grenadier recruits, in the Reserve Battalion, would be in training until late summer of 1915, and Edward was no exception. However, that summer, the five Guards Regiments (Grenadier, Coldstream, Irish, Welsh and Scots), would themselves be re-ororganised to form one division of their own, consisting of three Brigades. Additionally, the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadiers, who had been kept in England, were also sent to join the new Division in France.

transcripts :
p. 283




THE creation of a Guards Division was not regarded without misapprehension by some of the older oflicers of the Guards. The reputation that had been so dearly won by the original oflicers, non-commissioned ofiicers, and men of the regiments of Guards, at the expense of thousands of lives, might possibly be thrown away by their successors. The flooding of the army with new recruits might produce an entirely new stamp of man. Was the system alone good enough, werethe traditions alone strong enough, to produce the fighting man who had hitherto, rightly or wrongly, been associated with the regiments of Guards?

At the time there was no thought of conscription, and therefore it might be necessary to take any men who were willing to join. Would there be a sufficient nucleus of old Guardsmen to ensure that the traditions carefully preserved through many generations were strictly maintained ?

The mill through which men of the Guards have to pass, however, is so severe, and the discipline so stern, that no one need have doubted that the new recruits would prove equal to their predecessors.

p. 284
The Guards Division was formed in September 1915, and Major-General the Earl of Cavan, who had commanded the 4th Guards Brigade in every engagement almost since the commencement of the war, was naturally given the command.

He had proved himself a great soldier, and his exceptional ability as a commander of men had rendered him eminently fitted for this command. Thoroughly acquainted with the methods of the enemy, he had shown himself to be resourceful in strategy and bold of decision in action. Upon several occasions he had extricated his Brigade from situations of the utmost peril, and had turned a half-anticipated failure into hard-won victory. In the darkest hour at Ypres he never lost heart: the more hopeless the situation, the greater the opportunity for a gallant fight and great achievement. His perfect confidence in his men was equalled only by their whole-hearted trust in him. His appointment, therefore, was hailed with enthusiasm by all ranks of the Brigade of Guards.

The Guards Division was composed as follows:

The 1st Guards Brigade. Brigadier-General G. P. T. FEILDING.

The 2nd Batt. Grenadier Guards.
The 2nd Batt. Coldstream Guards.
The 3rd Batt. Coldstream Guards.
The 1st Batt. Irish Guards.

The 2nd Guards Brigade. Brigadier-General J. PoNsoNBY.

The 3rd Batt. Grenadier Guards.
The 1st Batt. Coldstream Guards.
The 1st Batt. Scots Guards.
The 2nd Batt. Irish Guards.

3rd Batt.
p. 285
The 3rd Brigade. Brigadier-General F.J. HEYWORTH

The 1st Batt. Grenadier Guards.
The 4th Batt. Grenadier Guards.
The 2nd Batt. Scots Guards.
The 1st Batt. Welsh Guards.

Thus there were four battalions of Grenadier Guards, three battalions of Coldstream Guards, two battalions of Scots Guards, two battalions of Irish Guards, and one battalion of Welsh Guards.
The 4th Battalion Coldstream Guards formed the Divisional Pioneer Battalion.

The Guards Division formed part of the Eleventh Corps under General Haking, and were placed in the First Army.


3rd Batt.

The 3rd Battalion Grenadiers was the only regular battalion at home. For months it had fretted at being left behind when all the other battalions had left, for they had a history second to none in the British Army, and had taken part in all the great campaigns during the last two hundred years.

Whether it was part of that mysterious thing called the British Constitution, or whether the idea of keeping one regular battalion in London emanated from the brain of some timid member of the Cabinet, is not clear, but the 3rd Battalion remained at home after all the rest of the regular army had gone. At first it was said that two regular battalions would have to remain behind in London, one for the King,

3rd Batt.
p. 286
the other for the Houses of Parliament, but His Majesty, having at once disposed of the idea that he needed the services of any regular battalion, Lord Kitchener decided to retain only one battalion, and that happened to be the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers.

The only exceptional event during the time it remained at home that deserves to be chronicled is the fact that for the first time in history this Battalion found the duties in London in service dress. On the 27th of August 1914 the King's Guard, under Captain de Crespigny, mounted for the first time in khaki.

Although the 3rd Battalion was unable to go as a unit, the terrible casualties the 1st and 2nd Battalions had suffered during the first months of the war made it very difficult to find the large draft required, and so it happened that most of the officers and non-commissioned officers made their way to the front in the other battalions.

When the Guards Division was formed it was decided to send out not only the 3rd Battalion but also the 4th Battalion, and to form another reserve battalion. On July 26 the Battalion paraded at Chelsea Barracks, and Colonel Streatfeild read to them a message from Field-Marshal His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, who was still Governor-General of Canada:

On hearing our 3rd Battalion has been placed under Orders to leave for the front, I ask you to give them a personal message from myself, wishing them God-speed and success, and assuring them of the great confidence I repose in them nobly to continue their splendid record of the past, and to assist our brave battalions at the

3rd Batt.
p. 287

front, who have so gloriously maintained the traditions of the First Regiment of Guards. May every blessing rest upon the Regiment, of which I am so proud to be the Colonel.
Colonel, Grenadier Guards

The Battalion crossed over via, Southampton to Havre in the steamboat 'Queen Alexandra' accompanied by a destroyer, and curiously enough was disembarked by one old Grenadier, Captain Sir F.E.W. Harvey-Bathurst, Bt., and entrained by another, Major G.C.W. Heneage. It proceeded by train to Wizernes, where it detrained, and marched into billets at Esquerdes. On July 31 the Battalion was inspected by General Stopford, who said it was the finest Battalion he had seen. On August 13 it took part in a review held on the aviation ground at St. Omer, when M. Millerand, the French War Minister, Lord Kitchener, and Sir John French inspected those battalions of the Guards Division which had arrived.

The 2nd Guards Brigade was complete on August 23, and was placed under the command of Brigadier-General J. Ponsonby, as Brigadier-General Lowther had been appointed Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief. On August 26 the officers of the four battalions of Grenadier Guards dined together at Wisques.

During the two months spent at Esquerdes the Battalion was busily engaged in training. Oflicers and non-commissioned officers went through several courses, and were initiated into the mysteries of bombing and the mechanism
of the new Lewis gun.

3rd Batt.


4th Batt.

p. 288
On August 30 Lieutenant A.T.A. Ritchie arrived, and on September 22 Lieutenant Sir Robert Filmer, Bt., was appointed Brigade Transport Officer.


It was in July that the King on the advice of the military authorities decided to form another Battalion of Grenadier Guards, since the Reserve Battalion had swollen to enormous proportions, in spite of the standard of height being raised. Colonel H. Streatfeild received instructions to this effect, and at once summoned a conference of the commanding officers and adjutants of the two Battalions of the Regiment in London (the 3rd and Reserve Battalions). The part of Chelsea Barracks occupied by the School of Instruction was vacated to make room for the new Battalion, which was to become the 4th Battalion, while the Reserve Battalion was in future to be known as the 5th (Reserve) Battalion.

Major G.C. Hamilton, D.S.O., was appointed Commanding Oiiicer, and Sergeant-Major E. Ludlow, Quartermaster. By July 16 the 4th Battalion completed its establishment, and on the 20th proceeded to Bovingdon Camp. Captain T.F.J.N. Thorne was appointed Adjutant, and the 3rd Battalion lent their Sergeant-Major and Orderly-Room Sergeant to assist the Staff of
the 4th Battalion.

On August 15 the 4th Battalion left Bovingdon Camp, and embarked at Southampton for Havre. The King, through Lieut.-Colonel Wigram, sent the following message to Colonel Streatfeild :

4th Batt.
p. 289

His Majesty heartily congratulates the Regiment on being able to place four Battalions in the field, thereby creating a record which will always be cherished in the annals of the Regiment. His Majesty desires you to tell all ranks of the 4th Battalion that they will constantly be in the thoughts of their Colonel-in-Chief, who wishes them every success.

Field-Marshal His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught sent the following message from Canada:

My best wishes accompany the 4th Battalion on their first tour of active service. I am confident they will do their duty and emulate their comrades of the older battalions.
Colonel, Grenadier Guards.

The Battalion crossed over in the 'Empress Queen', accompanied by a destroyer, and on arrival at Havre proceeded by train to St. Omer, where it detrained and marched to Blendecques. There it remained until the Guards Division was formed in September. On August 21 it was inspected by Brigadier-General Heyworth, who expressed himself pleased with its smart appearance. On September 17, during the inspection of the 3rd Guards Brigade, Major-General the Earl of Cavan complimented Major Hamilton on the way his Battalion had turned out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Next part

Edward Garside Whitehead
* Edward & family
This Part
* Edward enlists in Jan.1915;
* formation of the 4th Battn.
* Guards Division in 1915.
Part 2
* Battle of Loos, Sept.1915 -
* the Guards Division
at Loos.
Part 3
* Battle of Loos, Sept.1915
* The 4th Battn at Loos.
Part 4
Edward lands in France Oct.

* Diary of the War-
Oct., Nov., Dec., 1915;
* 4th Battn. Oct - Dec
Part 5
Edward transfers to
Machine-Gun Guards

* Diary of the War -
Jan - Sept. 1916;
* 4th Battn. Jan - Apr. 1916
Part 6
* 4th Battn. Apr - Jul.1916
Part 7
* The Guards Divison
at the Somme;
* Division Orders
Part 8
* The 4th Battn. at
The Battle of the Somme
Part 9
* Diary of the War -
Oct to Dec 1916:
* 4th Battn - Oct - Nov 1916;
* Diary of the War -
Jan - Mar 1917;
* 4th Battn. Jan - Mar 1917
Part 10
* Diary of the War -
April - July 1917;
* 4th Battn. Apr - July 1917
Part 11
* The Guards Division. -
Battle of Boesinghe
31 July 1917
Part 12
* Edward Killed in action in
Battle of Boesinghe

31 July 1917
*3rd Battalion - Boesinghe
1st battalion - Boesinghe
4th battalion - Boesinghe

Part 13
* 2nd Battalion - Boesinghe
* Diary of War - Aug -Sept.
* 1st Battn. Aug - Sept.
* Guards Divison - Oct. 1917
Crossing the Broembeek
* Diary of War - Oct - Dec.


* Gallery
of pictures & Maps
War Diaries - Extracts
*4th Battalion M-G Guards
'The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918' by Sir Frederick Ponsonby
Pub. 1920 in 3 Volumes, is freely downloadable as .pdf files or can be read on-line.
Vol 1 HERE
Vol 2 HERE
Vol 3 HERE

Contributed by Sheila Goodyear

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