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 4 ... Narrative Parts Index
We read in the War Diaries that a draft of men were sent out from the Reserves in England on the 2nd October ... Edward was still in England! And the fighting continued ...

During the rest of October the Battalion was in and out of the front line and on the 9th October we read in the Diaries that another draft of men for the 4th Battalion arrived from England.
Edward landed in France on the 5th October, so he must have been amongst this draft.

And the fighting and the digging continued against a background of high explosive shells ... until on the 25th and the Battalion withdrew to Allouagne and then to a quieter section of the front where it remained into December.

transcripts :



THE marshy condition of the ground and the bad weather made operations on any large scale impossible, and, with the exception of raids in various parts of the line, no serious offensive movement was attempted. In December Field-Marshal Sir John French resigned command of the British Army in France, and took over command of the Forces in the United Kingdom. He was succeeded by General Sir Douglas Haig.

In October the Bulgarians, under the impression that the Central Powers were winning the war, decided to join them, and declared war on the Allies.

In Mesopotamia the British Forces reached Kut-el-Amara with a view to the capture of Bagdad.

The campaign in Gallipoli having reached a deadlock, it was decided to withdraw the British Forces and abandon the attempt to reach Constantinople by that route. The whole of the Forces were successfully withdrawn with only three casualties.

4th Battn.
p. 344


4th Batt. Capt. J. A. Morrison . . . Commanding Officer.
Lieut. R. S. Lambert ... Acting Adjutant.
Lieut. M. G. Williams ... Machine-Gun Officer.
Lieut. C. E. M. Ellison ... Machine-Gun Officer
2nd Lieut. E. Ludlow ... Quartermaster.
Capt. C. L. Blundell-Hollinshead-Blundell .... No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. G. A. Ponsonby ... No. 1 Company.
Lieut. C. R. Britten ... No. 2 Company.
Lieut. E. F. Penn ... No. 2 Company
Capt. E. D. Ridley ... No. 3 Company.
Lieut. B. C. Layton ... No. 3 Company
Lieut. the Hon. E. W. Tennant ... No. 4 Company.
Lieut. B. D. Leigh-Pemberton ... No. 4 Company
Lieut. E. R. Brunton, R.A.M.C ... Medical Oflicer.

After the heavy casualties it had suffered at Loos, the 4th Battalion had to be reorganised; and Captain Morrison, now in command, redistrbuted

4th Battn.

the officers and non-commissioned officers, and as far as possible made up the deficiencies. The Battalion remained in billets at La Bourse until the 3rd, when it was ordered to occupy the trenches on the left of the Hulluch - Vermelles road. Here there was a certain amount of shelling. The system of trenches was highly complicated, and extensive works were being undertaken. The Battalion was ordered to prepare communicating trenches running parallel to Hulluch - Vermelles road, and this work kept the men fully employed for two days.

On the 5th the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards was in trouble, and sent for assistance, as it had had a portion of its trench blown in, and was harassed by the enemy's bombs. Captain E. Penn was sent off at once by Captain Morrison, with 100 men of No. 2 Company and 20 bombers, and told to report himself to Lieut.-Colonel Cator. Lieutenant Sitwell, with No. 4 Company, was ordered to be ready to follow, but no real attack on the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards developed, and neither company, therefore, was wanted. That evening the Battalion retired into billets at Vermelles, but were not free from the shells there, and three high-explosive shells pitched quite close to its billets. Lieutenant E.R. Brunton, R.A.M.C., who had come out with the Battalion, and been with them through the battle of Loos, was killed by a shell on the 5th as he was going round the billets.

On the 9th the Battalion returned to the trenches, and relieved the lst and 2nd Battalions Scots Guards. Second Lieutenant M. Chapman,

4th Battn.
Second Lieutenant G. C. Sloane-Stanley, Second Lieutenant E. W. Nairne, and Second Lieutenant H. H. Sloane-Stanley joined the Battalion that day, and on the 10th Captain Parry, R.A.M.C., arrived. On the 12th Major Lord Henry Seymour came to take over temporary command of the Battalion.

On the 17th bombing attacks by the 1st Battalion Grenadiers and 2nd Battalion Scots Guards began, and the 4th Battalion Grenadiers was ordered to form a continuous chain of men to pass up bombs, sand-bags, ammunition, and tools, and to hold all positions vacated by the Scots Guards as they advanced. Lieut.-Colonel Cator sent back for assistance as his bombers had been knocked out. The 4th Battalion Grenadiers bombers accordingly went up, followed later by 100 volunteers, many of whom had never seen a bomb before. Lieutenant C. Britten on his own initiative took charge of a party of Grenadiers and Scots Guards, after the two Scots Guards officers had been shot, and with great gallantry and coolness successfully drove off the enemy.

The next day Lieut.-Colonel Cator expressed his indebtedness to the 4th Battalion Grenadiers for its timely assistance; and the manner in which the bombers of the Battalion had behaved on this occasion was specially referred to by the Brigadier.

On the 18th the 4th Battalion mourned the lossof a brave and popular officer. Captain Eric Penn was in his dug-out when a shell struck it. He was completely buried, and although still alive when he was extricated, he died a few minutes later.

4th Battn.
p. 347
The continual casualties and the strenuous: digging were beginning to tell on the Battalion, and although every two alternate days were spent resting in billets, the high-explosive shells which reached it prevented the forty-eight hours in billets from being a complete rest. The Battalion went on the 21st for two days to Annequin, but on the 23rd returned to the trenches opposite the Hohenzollern Redoubt, where again there was a great deal of work to be done. The zeal which the 4th Battalion showed in its digging operations elicited praise from BrigadierGeneral Heyworth when he came round on a tour of inspection.

On the 25th the Battalion retired to Allouagne, where it remained until November 14, and thenmarched via Estaires, La Bassée road, Pont du Hem, to the trenches from Chapigny to Winchester road. Every alternate forty-eight hours it went into billets, but during the days in the trenches nothing of interest occurred. `

The same routine continued until December,12, when a most successful raid on the enemy's trenches was carried out. At 8:15pm Captain Sir Robert Filmer, accompanied by Sergeant Higgins and three men in No. 3 Company, went out to make a preliminary reconnaissance. By crawling right up to the enemy's trenches he succeeded in locating the exact position of the German machine-guns, and was able to confirm the report as to the gap in the enemy's wire entanglements. Captain Sir R. Filmer, who had already earned a name for bravery, crept quite alone down the entire length of the German

4th Battn.
trench, and carefully noted all he saw. On his return to our line the final orders were issued to the raiding party, consisting of thirty-three men from No. 3 Company, and the Battalion bombers under Lieutenant G. Ponsonby. The night was very dark, and it was difficult to see any landmarks. Sergeant Higgins led the party over the parapet at 11pm and was followed by Captain Sir R. Filmer and a covering party. Silently they advanced, but lost direction slightly to the left, with the result that they missed the gap and found themselves held up by low wire entanglement. Sir R. Filmer came up to ascertain the cause of the delay, and after considering the situation decided to cut the wire and rush the trench. The wire-cutting was successfully done, although only a few yards from the German line, and the party, headed by Sergeant Higgins, dashed into the trench. At the same time our artillery, in accordance with a previously conceived arrangement, opened a most effective barrage of fire, which continued until the party returned.

Then bombing and bayoneting began in earnest, and the Germans were completely cleared out of the trench. The machine-guns, which were found to be too securely fixed to take away, were destroyed by bombs. It was during this trench fighting that the bombing officer, Lieutenant G. Ponsonby, was badly wounded in the leg. Private W. Sweetman, finding him unable to move, carried him on his back under heavy fire to our lines. The other casualties were one man missing and three wounded. This small number of casualties proved how well arranged

4th Battn.
p. 349
the raid had been, and how brilliantly it had been carried out.

General Sir Douglas Haig commanding the First Army specially mentioned this raid in his report, and wrote:

" A well-planned and well-executed operation, reflecting the highest credit on all concerned, from Colonel Lord H. Seymour commanding the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards downwards. The immediate rewards asked for have been well earned, and I shall have very great pleasure in recommending the names put forward."

The following day at Riez Bailleul, Major-General Lord Cavan sent for and congratulated Captain Sir R. Filmer, Sergeant Higgins, and Private Sweetman on the success of the raid. He also congratulated the Battalion on having gained such a good reputation for digging and trench work.

The rest of December was spent either in billets at Laventie or in the trenches in the neighbourhood. The monotony of trench life was relieved by various schemes to catch the enemy's patrols, who were constantly reported to come out at night. Occasionally parties were sent to lie out and capture any Germans who might venture in front of their line. Whether any of their efforts were successful or not it is impossible to say, but reports of any movement on the part of the enemy ceased.

At the end of the month Major-General Lord Cavan was promoted, and consequently gave up the command of the Guards Division.

4th Battn.
p. 350 - 351
The post of Divisional Commander is perhaps the one that presents more difficulties and demands a more remarkable combination of qualities than any other in the Army of today. It is essential that a general commanding a division should combine the characteristics of the fighting man with those of the strategist. In the higher commands personal bravery so essential in a brigadier or commanding officer is a secondary consideration. Of a brigadier, on the other hand, whose programme is mapped out for him in the minutest of instructions, there is not expected nowadays anything of the precise chess-playing skill of the professional strategist. Hence it often happens that a brigadier promoted to command a division is found to lack the necessary qualities of strategy, while the born strategist, though not deficient in courage, may be totally unable to think clearly and act decisively when under fire.

Brigadier-General Feilding, who was now appointed to command the Guards Division, possessed in a marked degree the two necessary qualifications. A man of strong and resourceful character, fearless and independent in judgment, he was gifted with that indefinable quality which enables men to form prompt and wise decisions in moments of great emergency. His practical experience of war under modern conditions was great and extensive. He went all through the retreat from Mons, as well as the subsequent advance, when he commanded first the 2nd Battalion Coldstream and later the 4th (Guards) Brigade, and he had played an important part in every battle in which the battalions of the Guards had fought. When the Guards Division was First formed, he was placed in command of the 1st Guards Brigade, and carried out his duties with such distinction that he was clearly marked out as the prospective successor of Lord Cavan.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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.
This Part
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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