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 2

Part 13 ... Narrative Parts Index

transcripts :
31 July
p. 227-228


The assembly march on the night of the 30th of July was carried out by the 1st Guards Brigade without any difficulty, and all units were in position by 1am. The 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards moved from bivouacs in the Forest Area, 2.5 miles west of Elverdinghe, to a field near Roussel Farm, where cookers, sent on with the platoon guides, provided tea and rum for the men before they bivouacked in the open.

The following ofiicers of the 2nd Battalion took part in the attack on the 31st:
Lieut.-Colonel C.R.C. dc Crespigny, D.S.O. ... Commanding Oflicer.
Capt. C.F.A. Walker, M.C. ... Acting Second in Command.
Lieut. A.H.Penn ... Adjutant.
Capt. J.N. Buchanan ... No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. R.G. Briscoe ... No. 1 Company
2nd Lieut. P.A.A. Harbord ... No. 1 Company
Capt. A.T.A. Ritchie, M.C. ... No. 2 Company.
Lieut. A.S.L. St. J. Mildmay ... No. 2 Company
Lieut. F.H.G. Layland-Barratt, M.C. ... No. 2 Company
Lieut. R.G.C. Napier ... No. 2 Company
Capt. Sir A.L.M. Napier, Bart. ... No. 3 Company.
Lieut. K. O'G. Harvard ... No. 3 Company
2nd Lieut. H. Minto-Wilson ... No. 3 Company
Lieut. J.H. Jacob ... No. 4 Company.
Lieut. R.M. Oliver ... 4 Company
2nd Lieut. F.H.J. Drummond ... 4 Company
Capt. J.A. Andrews, M.C., R.A.M.C. Medical Officer.

The task assigned to the 1st Guards Brigade was the capture of the farthest objective, after the first three objectives had been secured by the 1st and 2nd Guards Brigades. During the first phases of the attack the 1st Guards Brigade was therefore in reserve, advancing in rear so as to be prepared to pass through the leading Brigades when the moment arrived.

Zero hour was fixed for 3:50 am., and at
4am., the 1st Guards Brigade advanced with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream on the left and the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers on the right, moving in artillery formation. The 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards and 1st Battalion Irish Guards were under the direct orders of the G.O.C. Guards Division. On the right of the Guards Division, the battalion which had to undertake the attack on the last objective was the 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Thirty-eighth Division.

During the early stages of the advance the shelling was very slight, and it was not until the Canal was reached that the 2nd Battalion began to suffer casualties. A considerable amount of shelling was met with on both sides of the Canal, but the crossing was effected without serious difficulty, although in places the bridges were broken, and some of the men fell into the mud. The Battalion advanced in very good order, the intervals and distances being kept with great precision. Lieut.-Colonel de Crespigny, finding that he was gaining on the time allotted to him, and noticing that the German barrage was irregular, gave orders that commanders of platoons might use their discretion, and halt occasionally in shell-holes, in order to avoid any zones which appeared to be receiving particular attention from the German artillery.

2nd Batt.
31 July
p. 229-230
The enemy was continually shortening his range, and there is no doubt that, by avoiding the shelling as necessity demanded, many casualties were avoided.

After going on in this way for about 2000 yards the leading companies, No. 1 under Captain Buchanan, and No. 2 under Captain Ritchie, M.C., having come under machine-gun fire, deployed into line, their example being followed by the companies in rear. The German barrage seemed to follow the Battalion as it advanced, but without ever reaching it. One howitzer shell, however, fell among the men of the Battalion Headquarters, knocking over no less than five. When the Battalion reached a point 500 yards south-west of the Green line, some 3000 yards from our old front line, it halted in accordance with orders, and Lieut.-Colonel de Crespigny went forward to confer with Lieut.-Colonel Thorne, commanding the 3rd Battalion. In the meantime the 2nd and 3rd Guards Brigades had captured the Green line, which was not a line of trenches but a line on the map, 100 yards beyond the Iron Cross - Korteker Cabaret road, and therefore easily recognisable as a landmark. At 8.20am., the 1st Guards Brigade advanced through the leading Brigades, which were to dig in and consolidate the Green line.

When the leading companies of the 2nd Battalion reached the Green line, Captain Ritchie with No. 2 Company found, as he expected, the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards digging itself in, and consolidating the line; but Captain Buchanan with No. 1 Company could find no trace of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, which should have been on the left of the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers. As he had arrived somewhat ahead of his time he commenced to dig in, as the position was on the crest of a hill and exposed to a considerable amount of machine-gun fire. The Company soon began to suffer heavy casualties. Captain Ritchie on the right sent word to say that he was being held up by machine-gun fire from the right, and was being subjected to eniilade fire from a partially destroyed house on the east of the Boesinghe-Staden Railway. He added that he could see no trace of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on his right. The whole line was under machine-gun and rifle fire, and not long afterwards Captain Ritchie and Lieutenant Napier were hit by machine-gun bullets, so that the command of No. 2 Company now devolved on Lieutenant A.St.J. Mildinay.

Captain Buchanan considered that while it was possible to push on he should do so, even if the Company on his right was unable to advance. He therefore decided to move forward, and sent back to Captain Sir A.L. Napier, commanding No. 3 Company, asking him to garrison the Green line. As the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, which, it was afterwards discovered, had gone too far to the right, did not appear, and as the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were unable to reach their objective, the advance was delayed and not continued until fifteen minutes after the creeping barrage was timed to move on. However, our barrage had now become uncertain, shells falling
sometimes far ahead and sometimes alarmingly close, so that the two leading companies could not well have advanced any sooner.

2nd Batt.
31 July
p. 231-232
Captain Buchanan, regardless of the situation on his flanks, continued to advance with No. 1 Company in the most gallant manner, and succeeded in reaching Signal and Ruisseau Farms, where thirty of the`enemy were captured, including a battalion commander and a number of officers. A platoon of No. 3 Company, under the command of Lieutenant Harvard, who showed considerable ability in handling his men in exceptionally difficult circumstances, was now sent up as reinforcements. No. 1 Company dashed on, and managed to cross the Steenbcek River, on the farther side of which it dug itself in.

Meanwhile the position on the right was full of difficulties. The 17th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers had been held up, and the usual problem demanded solution: how to keep pace with the advance, and at the same time to guard the exposed flank? A platoon of No. 4 Company, under Lieutenant Oliver, at once formed a defensive flank to the right; but this was an insufficient safeguard, and as No. 2 Company continued to advance, Lieutenant Mildmay, now in command, was forced to waste half his strength in protecting the right flank. Lieutenant Jacob, who commanded No. 4 Company, sent forward one platoon to assist No. 2 in their advance, and after consultation with Captain Buchanan despatched a third platoon under Second Lieutenant Drummond to prolong the left of No. 3 Company, which was now advancing in support of No.1. This platoon had not gone far before Lieutenant Drummond was wounded by a shell, but in spite of this, and even another wound in the neck from a bullet, he insisted on remaining with his Company until the Battalion was relieved, dealing coolly with every situation which arose. During the advance Sergeant Sharpe and two men captured a block-house 150 yards west of the railway, securing no less than twenty-one

By now the Royal Welsh Fusiliers had succeeded in demolishing the block-houses which impeded their advance, and had gained ground on thc right. This enabled Lieutenant. Mildmay to push on with No. 2 Company to within 80 yards of the Steenbeek, but there he was held up by machine-gun fire from Langemarck village. Any endeavour to cross the river in the circumstances would be doomed to failure, nor was there any advantage to be gained by the attempt, since the men now occupied a position with a good field of fire dominating the approaches to the river.

The section of the Machine-Gun Company which followed the 2nd Battalion during this advance suffered very much from shell-fire. Lieutenant Cottle, the officer in command, was killed whilst going forward to reconnoitre, and shortly afterwards one of the guns of this section with its entire team was knocked out by a shell. The remaining guns, however, were brought up into good positions in the front line.

Three German aeroplanes made a complete and leisurely reconnaissance of our position, although they were freely engaged with Lewis guns and rifle-fire.

2nd Batt.
31 July
p. 233-234
Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion Coldstrcam on the left, which had not experienced much opposition, but had had a very difficult wheel to perform, had succeeded in reaching its objective, and was established with its left on the Green line and its right in touch with the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers on the Steenbeek. As soon as it was dark, the line was straightened and strengthened, and touch was established between all units. A steady downpour of rain commenced that night and continued unceasingly until the Battalion was relieved two days later. The ground became one large morass, and the trenches were mere ditches, in which the men had to stand up to their knees in water. The hardships which the men had to endure cannot be over-estimated. Not only were they soaked through and covered with mud, but they were under continual shell-fire. Being for the most part on the forward slope of a hill, they were unable to move about in daylight to keep warm, and no hot food of any description could be brought up to them. The only way to ensure warmth was to dig a new trench at dusk and dawn every day. The advanced position of the trenches made it a precarious line to hold, more especially as it was impossible to dig down very deep on account of the water. There were consequently many casualties, amongst whom was Lieutenant K. Harvard, who was so badly wounded that he never recovered. He died the same evening at the dressing-station. The situation was not made easier by the Thirty-eighth Division on the right, which continually sent up S.O.S. signals without any apparent reason. This not only brought down our barrage, some shells of which fell in the Battalion's own advanced trenches, but it also caused retaliation from the enemy's artillery.

On the night of August 2 the 2nd Battalion was relieved, and marched to Bluet, where hot tea was provided. It was a very trying march; everyone was knee-deep in mud, and the weight of the mud and soaked equipment was almost intolerable. Later the Battalion moved on to Elverdinghe in order to entrain for Proven, but a shell had blown up a part of the line, and no train was therefore available. A move was made instead into bivouacs near Cardoen Farm, where the Battalion remained until lorries arrived to convey it to Proven.

The casualties amongst the oflicers were: Lieutenant K.O'G. Harvard, killed; Lieutenant R.G.C. Napier, died of wounds; Captain A.T.A. Ritchie, M.C., Lieutenant J.H. Jacob, Lieutenant A.S.L.St. J. Mildmay·, and Second Lieutenant F.H.J. Drummond, wounded. Amongst other ranks: 44 killed, 191 wounded, 15 missing, 11 slightly wounded.

and so the Battle of Bosenghe (Pilckem Ridge) came to an end and the rain set in ...
Chap. XXIV
p. 235-236

Diary of the War

THERE was much fighting on the British front during these two months. Early in August the Germans counter-attacked near Ypres, and succeeded in regaining St. Julien, but only for a short time, for it was retaken by the British a week later. On the Ypres - Menin road there was fierce fighting; the British gained some ground north-west of Lens, and also reached the Bois Hugo. In co-operation with the French they made good progress in the direction of Langemarck, and crossed the Steenbeek River. A general offensive east of Ypres was under- taken in September, and the line was advanced considerably.

The French launched a determined attack at Verdun on an 11-mile front, and captured several villages.

The Italians advanced in strong force on a 30-mile front from the Isonzo to the sea, and captured the Austrian front-line trenches beyond the Piave. They also had successes at Monte Gabriele and
Val Sagana.

The Russian débacle continued, and the Germans captured Czernowitz and Riga. General Korniloff, finding that the Army was in a state of mutiny, marched on Petrograd, apparently with the intention of taking over the Government of Russia, but his insurrection ended in failure, and he was forced to submit to the Provisional Government under Kerensky.

In Mesopotamia Sir Stanley Maude defeated the Turks at Ramadie, and there was some further fighting in East Africa. China declared
war on the Central Powers.

During these months several air raids were carried out against England, and not only London but many other towns were severely bombed.

Chap. XXIV
1st Battn.
p. 236-237


After the operations at Boesinghe the 1st Battalion retired for a few days' rest to Forest Area, but returned to the front trenches on August 5. While it was being relieved by the 3rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers, Second Lieutenant H.G. Johnson was killed. On the 8th it proceeded to Putney Camp near Proven, where it remained for four days, and then moved on to Reinforcement Camp at Herzeele. On the 12th Captain J.C.B. Grant, R.A.M.C., who had been attached to the Battalion for over a year, left, and Captain P.H.Wells arrived to take up the duties of Medical Officer. On the 26th Second Lieutenant W.A. Fleet joined from the base, and on the 22nd Captain A.T.G. Rhodes arrived. At the end of the month the Battalion moved to Rugby Camp in the Bluet Farm Area.

On September 1 it went into the line for four days, and came in for a certain amount of shelling. Second Lieutenant B.H. Carson received a bad wound in the side from a shell, and although he was carried down to the dressing-station, where it was at first thought that his wound was not serious, he died the next day. Second Lieutenant S.Y.P. Gardner was wounded, and Second Lieutenant W. A. Fleet was gassed. On September 5 the Battalion entrained at Lunéville Siding for Ondank, whence it marched to Cariboo Camp. On the 13th it moved to Harrow Camp, and on the 21st to Purbrook Camp. The following ofiieers joined during the month: Lieutenant A.A. Moller, Lieutenant J.F. Tindal-Atkinson, Second Lieutenant F.H. Ennor, Second Lieutenant C.C. Mays, Second Lieutenant R. Hall-Watt, Lieutenant J.P. Bibby, Second Lieutenant W.U. Timmis, Lieutenant C. Wilkinson, Second Lieutenant F.T. Maurice, Lieutenant the Hon. P.P. Cary, Second Lieutenant J.A. Lloyd.

The first few days in October were spent by the Battalion at Putney Camp, and on the 3rd it moved to the Elverdinghe Area, where the following officers rejoined: Captain Spence, Captain Chamberlain, Lieutenant Bevan, and Second Lieutenant Timmis.

Chap. XXV
The Guards
9-12 Oct.
p. 246-247


THE crossing of the Broembeek and the occupation of the southern edge of Houthulst Forest by the Guards Division was one of those brilliantly executed attacks which are apt to be counted among minor operations simply because of their success. There had been plenty of time to make the arrangements, and General Feilding was determined to ensure the success of the whole operation. The weather was an important factor, as the ground was low, and there had been much rain. If the Broembeck should become swollen by the rain, it would develop into a serious obstacle, and the ground, already very deep in places, might become a morass over which the troops would pass with difficulty. Two patrols, which had gone out the week before the attack, reported that mats would be necessary for crossing the stream, but the weather fortunately improved, and on the day of the attack the passage of the Broembeek presented few difficulties.

General Feilding decided to hold the line with Seymour's Brigade until the 9th, and to carry out the attack with De Crespigny's Brigade on the right and Sergison-Brooke's Brigade on the left. De Crespigny's Brigade was to cross the Broembeek from Panther and Leopard trenches, and continue on either side of the Kockuit Road through Vee Bend to its final objective, on the edge of the forest, from Egypt House to about 800 yards east of Les Cinq Chemins. Sergison-Brooke's Brigade, starting from Craonne Farm and Panther trench, was to advance across the stream through Ney Wood and Gruyterszaale Farm to Louvois Farm, and a strong point beyond on its left, while on the right the group of houses from Obtuse Bend to Suez Farm was to be taken, so that the line up to the road to Les Cinq Chemins on the edge of the wood would be secured.

Brigadier-General Lord Henry Seymour, who had to hold the original line for the two days before the attack, placed the 4th Battalion Grenadiers and 2nd Battalion Scots Guards in the front trenches, and these two Battalions had a strenuous time preparing accommodation for the other two Brigades, and placing mats in readiness for the crossing of the stream. The 1st Battalion Grenadiers and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards had also to work hard forming forward dumps, and dragging guns into their new position.

Map: Broembeek October 10th 1917
On the evening of the 7th the relief was successfully accomplished, and De Crespigny's and Sergison-Brooke's Brigades moved up into
their assembly positions.


Map: Broembeek October 10th 1917

Chap. XXV
The Guards
9-12 Oct.
p. 248-249
At 5.20am. on the 9th the attack began. In De Crespigny's Brigade, the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers and 2nd Battalion Coldstream advanced after an intense bombardment, which lasted four minutes, and having crossed the stream with comparatively little difficulty secured the first objective. In Sergison-Brooke's Brigade, the lst Battalion Scots Guards and the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards succeeded in crossing the stream, and reaching the first objective by the appointed time. They, however, experienced some difficulty at Ney Wood, where the enemy had posted a strong machine-gun nest.

At 7 am. the advance to the second objective commenced, and was equally successful, although in De Crespigny's Brigade the 2nd Battalion Coldstream met with some resistance from a group of block-houses at Vee Bend.

As soon as the second objective had been secured, the remaining Battalions in each Brigade moved up, and passing through the leading Battalions attacked the third objective. In De Crespigny's Brigade the 3rd Battalion Coldstream and 1st Battalion Irish Guards advanced, but found that their task was not so easy as that of their predecessors. Concrete block-houses had to be disposed of, and in some places a very determined resistance was encountered. The Newfoundland Battalion of the 88th Brigade had been unable to keep pace with the advance of the Guards Division, whose right flank was consequently exposed. But the third objective was reached according to the scheduled time.

In Sergison-Brooke's Brigade the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers and 1st Battalion Coldstream encountered little opposition, and seized Suez Farm, where they captured two field-guns. The 3rd Battalion Grenadiers reached the third objective so quickly that it was able to open fire on the Germans retreating into Houthulst Forest and inflict on them heavy casualties. The 1st Battalion Coldstream had some difficulty with a strong point at Louvois Farm, but after working round it succeeded in effecting its capture, together with the forty Germans who formed the garrison.

When the third objective was secured the two Brigades dug themselves in, and prepared for the expected counter-attack, but although the enemy showed some signs of activity, no actual attack took place. The position was maintained until the night of the 10th, when Seymour's Brigade took over the line. The 1st Battalion Grenadiers was placed on the right, the 4th Battalion in the centre, and the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards on the left. In order to improve the front line, and at the same time slightly to alter its direction, General Feilding decided on a farther advance. The Welsh Guards had to remain where they were; the 4th Battalion in the centre had to advance a short distance, and the 1st Battalion on the right had to go somewhat farther. All this was successfully carried out under a protective barrage, though the 1st Battalion found it difficult to maintain contact with the 51st Brigade on the right flank.

The new line was held until the evening of the 13th, when De Crespigny's Brigade took over the line. On the 17th the Guards Division was relieved, and retired for a period of rest. The casualties in the Division amounted to 67 officers and 1899 other ranks. The total number of prisoners captured was 28 officers and 1152 other ranks, in addition to 3 field-guns, 1 howitzer, 36 machine-guns, and 9 trench mortars.

Chap. XXVI
of the War
p. 266-267

Diary of the War, October, November, December 1917

SUCCESSFUL operations were carried out by Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in front of the Passchendaele Ridge at the beginning of October, when a large number of prisoners were captured, and, in spite of repeated counter-attacks by the Germans, the British forced their way to Houthulst Forest. The French made a successful advance on the Aisne front across the Soissons-Laon road, and penetrated the German line in several places. At the beginning of November the Germans retreated from the Chemin des Dames, and were closely followed by the French.

Sir Julian Byng with the Third Army gained a remarkable victory in the direction of Cambrai, and penetrated the Siegfried line. Farther advances were made, until the whole of the Bourlon Wood fell into the hands of thc British, but the Germans attempted an encircling movement, to cut off the troops in the salient that had been created, and forced back the British line at Gonnelieu and Bourlon. After some very heavy fighting Sir Julian Byng was able to bring up reinforcements, and restore the line.

In Italy the Austrians, reinforced by some German divisions, gained a decisive victory over the Italians, and advanced far into Italy. So serious was the situation that the Allied War Council decided to send British and French Divisions to the aid of the Italians. The Italians continued to retreat until they reached the Piave, and at one time Venice seemed threatened, but eventually the Italian resistance stiffened, and the Austrian invasion was checked.

In Palestine, after a series of brilliant operations, General Sir E. Allenby captured Jerusalem.

From Mesopotamia came the sad news of the death of General Sir Stanley Maude from cholera, and the appointnient of General Sir W.R. Marshall as his successor...

p. 269 ... After the successful operations in October the Guards Division had a month's rest.

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

Edward Garside Whitehead
* Edward & family
Part 1
* 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

This Part
* 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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