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 & Vol 2
Part 5 ... Narrative Parts Index
(I've made several assumptions in the following and, if anyone reading this can corroborate what I've written, or can show me differently, I'd be grateful and can be contacted through the website email address on the home page)

At some stage Edward transferred from the 4th Battalion Grenadiers to the Machine Gun Guards, No. 2 Company, but so far the only helpful date I've found to indicate exactly when, is on the back of his photo showing the Machine Gun insignia on his epaulettes and gives the date as 3rd October 1916

This could just be the date of the photo or the date on which he finished training ... or it could apply to both. .

Edward's Service number in the Machine Gun Guards is a fairly early one, No. 385. His will, written in late September 1915, as he was about to leave for France shows him in the Grenadier Guards but the packet cover, dated 28/7/17, records him as by then being in the Machine Gun Corps, No. 2 Company but I have no knowledge as to which of the three Guards Brigades his Company would have been attached or of when.

The 1st - 3rd Guards Machine Gun Companies were formed in the Guards Divison during the re-organisation in August 1915 and, I'm assuming, were separately attached to each of the 3 Guards Brigades.

The 4th Company was formed in England, and is recorded in the War Diaries as leaving Epsom, the training centre, and arriving in France in March 1917.

In April 1917 the '4 Machine Gun Guards Battalion' was formed by bringing together the existing 3 Machine Gun Companies from the 3 Brigades plus the newly arrived 4th Company.
from the Machine Gun Guards War Diaries:

"LE TRANSLOY, 27/3/17, 11am.
The C.O., 4 officers and 142 O.Rs. proceed to camp at LE TRANSLOY. Joined by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Guards Brigade Machine Gun Companies. Employed on road repairing near LE TRANSLOY. Work still in progress at the end of the month."

I'm now assuming that they then became one unit (with 4 Companies) that could be called upon by all three Brigades as the need arose.

So ... did Edward serve on the Somme with the Machine Gun Guards in September 1916? Was he still somewhere in training? From what I've been given to understand the training was quite lengthy, so he was quite possibly training for several weeks (in England?) during the summer of 1916. If I assume that the photo was to recognise his new status, this would almost certainly means that he would not have arrived back with the Division until after the worst of their fighting on the Somme was over.)

As, referencing the date on his photo of 3rd October 1916, my big question now, is whether or not Edward was still serving with the Grenadiers in early 1916, had been posted for machine-gun training, or by mid 1916 was already in the Machine Gun Guards. I know he would always have been with the Guards Division, but don't know in which specific actions he would have been involved.

I'm assuming the Machine Gun Guards, were using the heavier Vickers machine gun as there are references in the War Diaries (for the 4th Battalion Grenadiers) to Lewis Gun training along with other training exercises.

I'm also making the assumption that Edward was on the heavier Vickers machine-gun as he was part of a team when he was killed, and also in the Machine-Gun Guards.

I've included transcripts for the 4th Battalion Grenadiers throughout as this was his original battalion and gives some indication of what was happening with the other battalions in the Guards.


Early 1916 didn't see any large operations but there was sporadic fighting all along the line and in February the Battle of Verdun commenced. January had found the 4th Battalion in billets at Merville, drilling and route marching with Lewis gun and bombing practise. On the 15th January they entrained for Calais ... hots drinks, cake and sea air! A little too much as there were gales and heavy snow during their stay there.

transcripts :

Jan, Feb,


Diary of the War

ALTHOUGH no large operations took place at the beginning of 1916, there was continual righting in various parts of the line. The Germans made several attacks on the Yser Canal and at Neuville on the French front, and also attempted minor operations at Givenchy and on the Ypres-Comines Canal. In February the great battle of Verdun commenced, and in spite of heavy losses the Germans made some progress, capturing Haumont Wood and Village. Large masses of men were employed, and there was severe fighting at Bethincourt and Le Mort Homme. The Germans persisted in their attacks and captured Avocourt Wood, but the French stubbornly held their ground. At the end of March the British Army made a successful attack at St. Eloi, and penetrated the first and second German line of trenches, but lost the Vimy Ridge, a position of some tactical importance.

The Russians won a great victory in the Caucasus and drove the Turks in disorder towards
Erzeroum, which they captured soon afterwards. The position of the British Force on the Tigris was giving great anxiety, and the Turks claimed to have completely surrounded it.

Jan to
p. 353 - 354
In March Portugal joined the Allies, and declared war on Germany and Austria.
In Africa the Cameroons campaign was completed with the surrender of the German garrison at Mora Hill.
General Smuts advanced against the Germans in the Kilimanjaro area, and a week later gained further successes west of Taveta.

The United Kingdom resorted to conscription, and the Military Service Act was passed in the House of Commons.

On the British front the Germans launched determined but unsuccessful attacks at Ploegsteert, and there was fighting on the Vimy Ridge and between Loos and La Bassée. The struggle at Verdun continued with unabated fierceness, and Mort Homme and Fort Douaumont changed hands several times.

The battle of Jutland was fought, and the British Grand Fleet had an opportunity of meeting the German High Seas Fleet. The British Cruiser Squadron had most of the fighting, as the battleships did not come into action till late in the evening. The losses were heavy on both sides, and the German Fleet fled back to harbour claiming the victory.

Serious disturbances broke out in Ireland, and martial law was proclaimed in Dublin. The headquarters of the rebel Sinn Feiners was occupied after much street fighting, and the ringleaders were caught, tried by court-martial, and shot.

In Mesopotamia the troops sent up to relieve the British Force at Kut-el-Amara failed in their attack on the intervening Turks, and on April 29 General Townshend and a force of native and Indian troops surrendered.

President Wilson warned the Germans that if they persisted in their indiscriminate sinking of neutral vessels, he would have no alternative but to break off diplomatic relations.

On June 5 H.M.S. 'Hampshire', conveying Field-Marshal Earl Kitchener on a special mission to Russia, was sunk off the Orkney Islands by a mine, and all but twelve men weredrowned.

On June 12 General Smuts captured Willielmstal, the capital of German East Africa.

The battle of the Somme commenced at the beginning of July and lasted until November. Both the British and French Armies were engaged during these months in systematically capturing the German positions on the north and south of the River Somme. This was the first battle in which Tanks were used.

Salonika had now become an important place in the war, and a mixed force under General Sarrail attempted an offensive movement, which, however, came to nothing.

The Russians continued their successful operations against Austria, and captured vast numbers of prisoners. On August 27 Roumania declared war on Austria, and advanced into Transylvania, in spite of warnings from the Allies that they had better hold their frontier and join hands with the Russians.

At the end of August Field-Marshal von Hindenburg was appointed Chief of the German General Staff.


4th Bttn,
Jan 1916

p. 12 - 13


The officers of the 4th Battalion on January 1, 1916, were :
Lieut.-Colonel Lord Henry Seymour Commanding Officer.
Capt. J.A. Morrison ... Second in Command.
Capt. H.S. Lambert ... Adjutant.
2nd Lieut. H.H. Sloane-Stanley ... Bombing Ofiicer.
2nd Lieut. M. Chapman ... Lewis Guns.
Lieut. I.H. Ingleby ... Transport Officer.
Lieut. E. Ludlow ... Quartermaster.
Capt. C. L. Blundell-Hollinshead-Blundell ... No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. F.G. Bonham-Carter ... No. 1 Company
2nd Lieut. B. Burman ... No. 1 Company
Capt. C. R. Britten ... No. 2 Company.
Lieut. F. C. Lyon ... No. 2 Company
2nd Lieut. C.G. Keith ... No. 2 Company.
Capt. Sir R. Filmer, Bart. ... No. 3 Company.
Lieut. B. C. Layton ... No. 3 Company
2nd Lieut. G.C. Sloane-Stanley ... No. 3 Company
2nd Lieut. E.W. Nairn ... No. 3 Company
Capt. F.O.S. Sitwell ... No. 4 Company.
Lieut. the Hon. E.W. Tennant ... No. 4 Company.
2nd Lieut. D.O. Constable ... No. 4 Company.
Attached ... Capt. W. Hilton-Parry, R.A.M:C.

The 4th Battalion began the new year in billets at Merville, where it remained till the 13th, doing steady drill, route marching, Lewis gun and bombing practice. On the lst, Second Lieutenant B. Burman, Second Lieutenant C.G.
Keith, and Second Lieutenant D.O. Constable joined the Battalion.

On the 13th it moved up to the trenches in front of Laventie, and relieved the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards. There it remained for a fortnight, spending two days in the trenches, followed by two days in support billets. In the line it occupied were certain strong points, A 1 Redoubt, Flank Post, and Firework Post, and these were subjected daily to a systematic shelling from the German artillery. Beyond a few casualties, nothing of importance occurred until the 25th, when Captain Sir Robert Filmer was mortally wounded. He had just left the trenches when he found he had lost his glasses. Being very short-sighted, he determined to go back and look for them, although he was warned that the road was being heavily shelled at the timc. With that supreme contempt for all shells that had characterised his whole conduct since he came out, he rode back when a shell burst close to him, killing his horse and wounding him so severely that he died the next day.

4th Bttn,
Jan - Feb
p. 14
On the 27th the 4th Battalion returned to billets at Merville for four days, and on the 1st of February took over the Red House line at Laventie, where it remained until the 15th, retiring into support billets every two days. Numerous patrols lay out each night in the hopes of capturing prisoners, but these ventures were not attended with any success, and no prisoners were secured. Heavy shelling of the front line of trenches continued daily, but although considerable damage was done to the parapet the casualties were few. On the 12th the enemy shelled Dead End Post, and burnt it to the ground. There were fortunately no men killed or wounded, but all the rifles, S.A.A., bombs, and rations were destroyed. The same night Captain Layton sent out one N.C.O. and four men, with two R.E. men carrying a Bangalore torpedo, which was placed under the German wire, with its nose against the enemy's parapet. After the party had returned in safety the torpedo was successfully exploded by means of an electric cable, and our patrols later reported extensive damage to the enemy's parapet.

On the 15th the 4th Battalion returned to billets at Merville, and the next day entrained at Lestrem for Calais. On arrival at Calais it marched to a eamp at Le Beaumarais, where the Y.M.C.A. had hot drinks and cakes ready. The sea air for which the men had come was somewhat powerful when they arrived, as it was blowing a gale, and most of the tents were laid flat.

4th Bttn,
Feb - Mar
p. 15
In fact, the whole time they were there the weather was bad, with heavy snow and hail storms, which made camp life unpleasant. On the 23rd forty-three ofiicers of the 1st and 4th Battalions dined together, and invited General Heyworth to join them. On the 26th the Battalion went by train to Cassel, where it detrained and marched to Herzeele. A great deal of snow had fallen, and the roads were in a very bad state, which made it difficult for the transport to move with any rapidity. The men were billeted in farms round about, and, although very much scattered, the billets were good.

A new system of parchments, in recognition of good work done by N.C.O.'s and men in the Division, was instituted. These were signed by the Major-General commanding the Division and issued to the men, but as there was every danger of their being lost if carried about, they were re-collected, and sent through the Regimental Orderly Room to the men's relatives. The infinitesimal number of decorations allotted to each battalion necessitated some other means of recognising conspicuous services, and although it could hardly be said that these parchments in any way compensated for the lack of decoration, they at least gave the man the satisfaction of knowing that his services had been brought to the notice of the Major-General.

After spending a fortnight at Herzeele the 4th Battalion moved to a camp of huts and tents near Poperinghe on March 6. A digging party 250 strong, under Captain Blundell, was sent on to work at Ypres, and remained there for three days.

4th Bttn,
Mar - Apr
p. 16
On the 15th the whole battalion went by train to Ypres, where it went into dug-outs, and on the following day took over the line of trenches with its right 200 yards north of the Menin road, and its left on the Roulers railway by Railway Wood. There it remained until the 27th, retiring every four days into dug-outs at Ypres, and although it became a mere target for the German artillery, it had only nineteen casualties in its first four days in the trenches.

On the 23rd the following officers joined the Battalion: Lieutenant C.G. Goschen, Second Lieutenant A.F. Newey, Lieutenant M.F.H. Payne-Gallwey, and Second Lieutenant J. P. Bibby. On the 24th Second Lieutenant B.G.H. Maclear rendered a very good patrol report, and on the information he gained a further reconnaissance under his guidance was sent out the next day, to be followed, if successful, by a bombing raid. The patrol was unfortunately seen by the enemy, and a hot fire was opened on them all down the line. This completely precluded all possibility of surprise, and consequently the enterprise was abandoned. That evening the German artillery heavily shelled the Canadian trenches on the right, and inflicted considerable damage. On the 27th the Battalion returned to Poperinghe, where the men washed in the Corps baths, and received clean underclothing.

The officers of the 4th Battalion at that time were :
Lieut.-Colonel Lord Henry Seymour ... Commanding Ofiicer,
Major J.A. Morrison ... Second in Command.

4th Bttn,
p. 17
Capt. R.S. Lambert ... Adjutant.
Lieut. H.H. Sloane-Stanley ... Bombing Officer.
Lieut. M. Chapman ... Lewis Gun Officer.
Lieut. I.H. Ingleby ... Transport Officer.
Lieut. E. Ludlow ... Quartermaster.
Capt. C.L. Blundell-Hollinshead-Blundell ... No. 1 Company.
2nd Lieut. B. Burman ... No. 1 Company
2nd Lieut. A.F. Newey ... No. 1 Company
Lieut. C.G. Goschen ... No. 2 Company.
2nd Lieut. C.G. Keith ... No. 2 Company
2nd Lieut. B.G.H. Maclear ... No. 2 Company
Capt. B.C. Layton ... No. 3 Company.
Lieut. G.C. Sloane-Stanley ... No. 3 Company
Lieut. M.F.H. Payne-Gallwey ... No. 3 Company
Lieut. E.W. Nairn ... No. 3 Company
Capt. F.O.S. Sitwell ... No. 4. Company.
Lieut. the Hon. E.W. Tennant ... No. 4. Company
2nd Lieut. D.O. Constable ...No. 4. Company
2nd Lieut. J.P. Bibby ... No. 4. Company

On April 3 the 4th Battalion moved to Camp B at Vlamertinghe by companies, and on the 8th returned to the trenches, relieving the lst Battalion Grenadiers as right battalion of the left sector of the Division. There it remained until the 20th, placing two companies at a time in the front line. There was a great deal of work to be done in strengthening and heightening the parapet, which in some parts was in a lamentable condition. On the 17th Second Lieutenant M.H.Ponsonby and Second Lieutenant R.A. Gault arrived. The enemy was very active in this sector, and frequent raids occurred. On the 19th the German artillery began a systematic bombardment of our first and second lines by way of a barrage, While they launched an attack somewhat to the left of the line occupied by the 4th Battalion.

4th Bttn,

p. 18
At first this attack hardly seemed to affect Nos. 2 and 3 Companies, which were at that time in the front trenches, but when a message arrived from the Brigade-Major to the effect that the enemy had occupied Wieltje in front of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, which had held it lightly, it was clear that something had to be done. It afterwards turned out that the enemy had made a determined attack on the Sixth Division, and had taken 600 yards of trench, while a raiding party had got down the trench occupied by the Scots Guards. Lieutenant C.G. Goschen, who was an old hand at this type of fighting, at once sent a strong patrol, under Second Lieutenant Maclear, up the trench to the left to clear up the situation, and if necessary support the Scots Guards. This manoeuvre proved eminently successful, and, in spite of the bombs which rained on them the party of Grenadiers carried all before them. In the meantime the Scots Guards ejected all the Germans who had succeeded in penetrating into their trench. There was necessarily some very stiff lighting, but although there were 3 men killed and 24 wounded, of whom 3 died later, the party returned with no men missing. Lieut.-Colonel Lord Henry Seymour afterwards attributed the success of the operation to the coolness and resource displayed by Second Lieutenant Maclear, Lieutenant Goschen, and Captain Blundell. He also praised the marked ability shown by Second Lieutenant Keith and Second Lieutenant Constable in the control of their men under very difficult circumstances.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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
This Part
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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