A Jolly Good Chap (Part 1)

Private G/5203 Frank Smith

25th March 1917 – 26th February 1918

Group Shot

Frank Smith seen with an arrow pointing to him stood in the rear rank. This picture was taken in 1915 when he was serving in the 8th Buffs.

These next blogs have taken me since 1979 to write. They are based on a man who has been a big part of my life but was someone I never got to meet. He has been an enigma in my life and is someone that resonates through my family even today. 

So I also apologise that these blogs will look at the East Kent Regiment and not the Norfolk Regiment. I am currently writing my third book on the Norfolk Regiment on the Western Front so what happened to the battalions of the Norfolks around this time will be covered in that.

These blogs look at the last months of my Great Grandfather’s life before he found himself at Vendeuil on 21st March 1918.

After Frank was wounded on 18th August 1916 he was sent home to recover from his wounds. Evidentially we know that Frank did not go back to a front-line unit and that he had to recover from his wounds. However, based on his medal roll, we know that the War Office decided that he was fit enough to be sent to a Labour Corps unit, which has been confirmed as the 44th Company. He was given a Labour Corps number of 198065.

B & VM

One of Frank’s medal rolls which details his move to the 44th Labour Company in the Labour Corps.

The 44th Labour Company was originally formed as the 5th Infantry Labour Company Lincolnshire Regiment and most war diaries for the Labour Corps have not survived or were never written. We are lucky that this unit kept a record of their movements on the Western Front. The places mentioned in the war diary relate to either an area around Dunkirk, or positions to the east of Amiens on the Somme. He served with them until December 1917.

26.02.1918 Letter Frank Smith

The first part of Frank’s letter to Edie and his children which he wrote on 26th February 1918.

By January 1918 Frank was deemed fit enough to return to front-line duties and
went back to the 8th Buffs. However, by this time, the 8th Battalion were just a shell of their former selves having seen further action on the Somme and then at 3rd Ypres in 1917. Most of the original men who had joined up with Frank were either dead, wounded or prisoners of war. Those that were left saw their battalion disbanded and they were sent to the 7th Buffs. 

The history of the regiment in WW1 wrote the 8th Battalion’s epilogue 

‘This ended the only 8th Battalion the regiment ever had. Ever since the 26th September 1915, when it suffered so severely near Loos, and when it lost the gallant Romer, this unit had borne a brave share in the great struggle. Very few, if any, of the men raised by the gallant Colonel Romer in 1914 were passed on in February, 1918 (Major J. Vaughan, M.C. being one of the exceptions), but the regimental spirit was still a living thing, and it was a right and happy order that men should remain Buffs and no new badge should replace the ancient dragon.’

26.02.1918 Letter Frank Smith 2

Page 2 of Frank’s letter written on 26th February 1918


Frank could rightly call himself one of the original men raised by the gallant Colonel Romer. However, as noted in the disbandment these men went to other battalions in the regiment and we know that by 26th February 1918 that Frank was in No 3 Platoon, ‘A’ Company the 7th Buffs.

This is because he wrote a letter, probably one of the last ones he wrote, to Edith. In this letter he mentions his ‘unknown son’ this refers to Leslie Smith who had been born on 6th February 1918 and whom Frank never got to meet.

1918 Photo Edith Smith with Leslie0

Edie with Leslie who was born in February 1918

Frank’s letter is hopeful that he will get leave soon and that good news will be coming before he gets leave. Sadly this hope would be shattered by the Germans in March 1918.






















Memorial Tablets

WW1 Memorials at Thorpe Market Church


Thorpe Market Church which was built in 1796 on the site of an earlier medieval church by the first Lord Suffield. Inside and out there is a lot of history that remembers WW1.

Recently I visited Thorpe Market Church with my wife Claire to see the snowdrops that had sprung up in the grounds. This was in conjunction with a small open day where there were a few stalls dotted in and outside the church.

I have visited the church grounds previously for my first book. The reason for that being that I knew that there was a WW1 casualty buried within. This man sadly died of pneumonia in the military hospital at Ipswich on 11th November 1918. I often wondered if the bells to celebrate Armistice were being rung as he died, which must have been such terrible thing to know when your loved passed away on the day we stopped fighting each other.

But I never ventured into the church and did not know that there were three war memorials to men who fell in the Great War within. The first is the memorial tablet that records the loss of eleven men from the parish. There are three brothers commemorated on that, they are Peter, Walter and Frederick Cook all sons of Sarah Ann Cook of Thorpe Market.


Lance Corporal 18462 Walter Cook who died of wounds on 3rd October 1917 serving with the 9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment. The 9th Battalion were situated around Maroc at that time and Walter was wounded when three shells fell on men from ‘C’ Company as they were forming up for a working party. He is buried in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery. All of the eleven men on this memorial served with the Norfolks bar one, Frederick Cook, the brother of Walter and Peter. 

Private 16281 Robert Allen was killed in action on 22nd October 1917 when the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment assaulted and captured what was left of Poelcappelle. He is incorrectly listed as serving in the 9th Battalion on the CWGC database.

Private 13820 Sidney Attew was killed in action on 7th May 1917 serving with the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment whilst they were serving in reserve trenches around Neuville Vitasse. He was aged 26 and was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Ann Attew of Thorpe Market. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Private 18738 Frederick Cook is reported to have died on 15th October 1916, aged 23, when he was serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Between 9th to 14th October 1916 this battalion saw action in trenches to the east of Les Bouefs where they captured and consolidated Cantelope Trench.

Private 13552 Robert Hurn was killed in action on 1st July 1916 when the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment took part in the 18th (Eastern) Division’s assault on Montauban. He was 21 and the son of Mr and Mrs John William Hurn of Thorpe Market. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Serjeant 5656 Herbert Keeler was killed in action on 9th October 1917 during the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment’s assault on Polderhoek Chateau. He was aged 36 and a veteran of the South African Camapign. He was the husband of Mrs. J. Reynolds  (formerly Keeler) of Alby Common at Hanworth.

Private 18687 Robert Nicholls died in Norwich Hospital on 8th May 1915 aged 35. At this point in time he was serving with the 3rd battalion Norfolk Regiment and is now buried in Norwich Cemetery. He was the son of the late Josiah and Ann Nichols of Thorpe Market and the husband of Frances Marion Nichols of The Tower at Gunton Park.

Private 13713 William Turner was killed in action during the assault on the Quadrilateral on 15th September 1916. Aged 26 he was the son of George and Martha M. Turner of Thorpe Market and has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.


Private 18522 Peter Cook died of wounds on 17th January 1916. Although he is listed as Norfolk Regiment he was attached to the 6th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers who had served around Lake Doiran and Strumica briefly in early December 1915. He is buried in Plovdiv Central Cemetery in Bulgaria and at this time it would mean he died as a prisoner of war.

There is also another memorial tablet which records the loss of five of the eleven men commemorated on the main war memorial as well as listing Cecil Burdett. Looking at the dates the men are recorded as having died between May 1915 and July 1916.

Private 23421 Cecil Burdett died of wounds at No.21 Casualty Clearing Station at La Neuville British Cemetery near Corbie on 23rd July 1916 aged 21. He had served in the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, where he was wounded at Delville Wood on 19th July 1916, and was the son of Mary Anna Bates of Colby. 

Timothy Gibbons KIA 19 Jul 16

Serjeant 13360 Timothy Gibbons who was killed in action on 19th July 1916 when the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment fought at Delville Wood. He was 32 and had been awarded the MM earlier in the war. He was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Gibbons of Hoveton St. Peter. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

The final memorial is a private one remembering the loss of Edward Archibald Beauchamp who was the son of Sir Edward and Lady Betty Beauchamp. Edward was the earliest casualty when he was mortally wounded in December 1914.


The private memorial to Edward Beauchamp

Although the memorial lists what happened to Edward there is an excellent obituary in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour which I have posted below.

Beauchamp Obit

E A Beauchamp

Second Lieutenant Edward Archibald Beauchamp who is now buried in Lillers Communal Cemetery. Image IWM.

There is also a 1920 burial for a man in the church grounds 

Private 6077546 Reginald Allen died on 24th December 1920. He enlisted with the The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) on 29th April 1919 and joined the 1st Battalion aged 17. He is listed as having died in Londonderry. He was the son of George and Harriet Sexton and husband of Violet Marion Sexton from Gunton.

I mentioned the man who died of pneumonia in the military hospital at Ipswich on 11th November 1918. This is Thomas Panks Mayes who is buried in the north west part of the church grounds.


Corporal 3/10053 Thomas Mayes who served in the 3rd Battalion Norfolk Regiment but had been transferred to the 331st Company Labour Corps when he died of pneumonia on 11th November 1918 aged 49. Thomas had been admitted to the Military Hospital at Ranelagh Road in Ipswich on 12th October 1918. He was the son of Charles and Mary Mayes and the husband of Annie Mayes of Thorpe Market.

To me these memorial tablets are quite rare in that at least two of them seem to be ones erected prior to the end of the war. They make me think of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Memorial Tablet. 

SQUIRE nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?

Whether you agree or disagree with Sassoon’s sentiments with his poem I often wonder did Sarah Ann Cook look up at these tablets at sermon time and what she thought of them?











































































































The 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment

30th November 1917

Lieut W G Collins KIA 30 Nov 17

Lieutenant William Geoffrey Collins who was posted missing on 30th November 1917. In fact he had been wounded and captured in the German advance. Sadly he died of these wounds as a prisoner of war and is now buried in Grave I. C. 3. in Hamburg Cemetery. William had been with the 7th Battalion since 7th July 1917 and had come from the ranks and had been commissioned on 15th December 1915, having previously served in the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry. He was 35 and the son of Mr. W. H. and Mrs. H. L. Collins of 13 Coopers Lane, Grove Park in London and the husband of Violet C. Collins of Hither Green in Catford. (Image IWM)

As the British took Bourlon and Bourlon Wood on 23rd November 1917, the Germans began reinforcing the area. As early as the 23rd, the German command felt that a British breakthrough would not occur and began to consider a counter-offensive. Twenty divisions were arrayed in the Cambrai area. The Germans intended to retake the Bourlon salient and also to attack around Havrincourt while diversionary attacks would hold IV
Corps; it was hoped to at least reach the old positions on the Hindenburg Line. The Germans intended to employ the new tactics of a short, intense period of shelling followed by a rapid assault, leading elements attacking in groups rather than waves and bypassing strong opposition. For the initial assault at Bourlon three divisions of Gruppe Arras under Otto von Moser were assigned.

On the eastern flank of the British salient, Gruppe Caudry attacked from Bantouzelle to Rumilly and aimed for Marcoing. Gruppe Busogny advanced from Banteux. These two corps groups had seven infantry divisions. Lieutenant General Thomas D’Oyly Snow, commander of the British VII Corps to the south of the threatened area, warned III Corps of German preparations.

The German attack began at 07:00 on 30th November; almost immediately, the majority of III Corps divisions were heavily engaged. The German infantry’s advance was unexpectedly swift. The commanders of 29th and 12th divisions were almost captured, with Brigadier-General Vincent having to fight his way out of his headquarters and then grab men from retreating units to try to halt the Germans. In the south, the German advance spread across 8 miles and came within a few miles of the vital village of Metz and its link to Bourlon.

At Bourlon, the men under Moser met with stiffer resistance. The British had assigned eight divisions’ worth of fire support to the ridge and the Germans suffered heavy casualties. Despite this, the Germans closed and there was fierce fighting. British units displayed reckless determination; one group of eight British machine guns fired over 70,000 rounds in their efforts to stem the German advance.

Bleak Trench

Bleak Trench where the Battalion HQ was situated for 30th November 1917

The 7th Battalion had been in reserve for the opening of Cambrai on 20th November and only ‘C’ Company had been involved in the 12th (Eastern) Division that day. They had then spent a relative period of quiet after the battle and went back into the line on 29th November facing Banteux situated on the western side of the Canal St Quentin. At 6.30 a.m. the Germans began to bombard Villers-Guislain hitting the entire divisional front and the divisions either side.

The ferocity of the German counter attack can be seen in Ernst Jünger’s book Storm of Steel in the chapter entitled ‘The Double Battle of Cambrai’. Junger was initially positioned in the grounds of Baralle Castle. (It must be noted that Jünger did not face the Norfolk Regiment who were further south to this position).

‘At nine o’clock in the morning our artillery began a powerful pounding, which from quarter to twelve to ten to twelve achieved the intensity of drumfire. The woods of Bourlon, which were not even under direct attack as they were too heavily defended, simply vanished in a chartreuse fog of gas. At ten to twelve we observed through our binoculars lines of riflemen emerging on to the empty crater landscape, while the rear batteries were harnessed up and rushed forward to new positions.’

Jogn Seaman died 2 Dec 17

Private 12335 John Stone Seaman was born at Little Walsingham in 1866 and was educated at Little Walsingham National School. He enlisted on 26th August 1914 and went to France with the battalion on 30th May 1915. He was killed in action on 2nd December 1917 and has no known grave and is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial. He was the son of Alice and Albert Seaman

The war diary for this period was destroyed in the fighting so what is written in it was retrospective of the fighting on 30th November 1917. The entry is brief and states,

‘About 7 a.m. a very heavy Hun Barrage commenced and at 7.40 a.m. he attacked in mass in enormous numbers from Gonnelieu which he had just previously taken about 7.35 a.m. and also from Banteaux. The Bosche attacked the battalion from the right flank and the front. Our Lewis guns did splendid work, mowing down the enemy in large numbers, but by weight of numbers, he forced the Battalion to fall back on to Battalion Headquarters in Bleak Trench and a strong point on our  left front. The Hun succeeded in surrounding many of our men, who were thereby forced to surrender. We made a splendid  fight and accounted for enormous numbers of the enemy. About 10 a.m. 2nd Lieut G MADDISON was only officer left, and he, with the remaining men of the battalion, attached himself to the 9th Fusiliers Regt.’

Sendall KIA 30 Nov 17

Private Sendall was born in Skeyton on 25th September 1895, and was educated at Skeyton School. He enlisted on 14th June 1915, and was killed in action near Cambrai on 30th November 1917.

At that point in time it was not certain who had been killed or who had been captured. This included the C.O. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lex Francis Gielgud who was reported missing.

Ernst Jünger again,

‘The British resisted manfully. Every traverse had to be fought for. The black balls of Mills bombs crossed in the air with our own long handled grenades. Behind every traverse we captured we found corpses or bodies still twitching. We killed each other, sight unseen. We too suffered losses. A piece of iron crashed to the ground next to the orderly, which the fellow was unable to avoid; and he collasped to the ground, while his blood issued on to the clay from many wounds.’

Further German attacks forced the battalion back to the south of the Cambrai road where they ended up around Fusilier Reserve and Fusilier Trench at La Vacquerie. On 3rd December 1917 a much depleted battalion marched to Heudicourt.

La Vacquerie

The area around La Vacquerie where the remains of the battalion retreated to

Sadly Lt Col Gielgud had been killed in action along with a total of 18 officers and 333 other ranks killed wounded or missing. 

Pretty much all that had been taken in the previous offensive was now back in the hands of the Germans and it was only through counter-attacks by the Guards Division, the arrival of British tanks, and the fall of night allowed the line to be held.

Fusilier Trench

Fusilier Trench and Reserve where the battalion ended up

By the following day, the impetus of the German advance was lost but pressure on 3rd December led to the German capture of La Vacquerie and a British withdrawal east of the St Quentin canal. The Germans had reached a line looping from the ridge at Quentin to near Marcoing.

Villers Plouich Area 2017

The area on a French IGN map

On 3rd December, Haig ordered a retreat from the salient and by 7th December the British gains were abandoned except for a portion of the Hindenburg line around Havrincourt, Ribécourt and Flesquières. The Germans had exchanged this territorial loss for land to the south of Welsh ridge.

Bunn KIA 30 Nov 17

Private 17097 Edward Bunn was born in Norwich on 11th October 1891 and was educated at St. Peter Mancroft School. He enlisted on 5th December 1914 and went to France on 23rd June 1915. He was reported missing, believed killed in action, at Cambrai on 30th November 1917. He was 26 when he died and was the son of Mrs. Rosetta Bunn of 7, Distillery Terrace on the Dereham Road in Norwich. Edward’s body was found and he’s now buried in Grave VII. A. 12. in Villers Hill British Cemetery.

Casualties were around 45,000 for each side, with 11,000 Germans and 9,000 British taken prisoner. In terms of territory, the Germans recovered most of their early losses and gained a little elsewhere, albeit with a net loss of ground. The battle showed the British that even the strongest trench defences could be overcome by a surprise artillery-infantry attack using the newly available methods and equipment, with a mass tank attack as a bonus; it also showed the Germans the effectiveness of their similar new tactics so recently used against the Russians. 

Ernst Jünger’s company also lost heavily.

‘In this murderous sector of trench, all my NCOs and a third of my company were bleeding to death. Shots in the head rained down. Lieutenant Hopf was another one of the fallen, an older man, a teacher by profession, a German schoolmaster in the best sense of the word. My two ensigns and many others besides were wounded.’

These lessons were later successfully implemented by both sides. The German revival after the shock of the British attack improved morale but the potential for more attacks like this meant that the Germans had to divert resources to anti-tank defences and weapons, a diversion of resources the Germans could ill afford.


Private 40234 Daniel Lowder aged 26 who was killed in action at Cambrai. He was the son of Daniel Elijah and Sophia Lowder, of Gresham in Norfolk. Daniel is buried a long way from where he fell and is now laid to rest in Enclosure No.4 Grave X. E. 11. in Bedford House Cemetery near Ypres. 

In total 94 men from the 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment were killed in action or died of wounds between 30th November and 3rd December 1917. Most have no known graves and are commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval.






The Battle of Cambrai (Part 1)

The 9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment 

20th November 1917


The area around Cambrai where the battle was fought

General Hon. Sir Julian Byng, commanding Third Army, went to see Haig around three months before the attack, asking to be allowed to make a surprise assault on the formidable defences at Cambrai.

It required a methodical “bite and hold” advance in four stages using six Divisions. ‘Bite and hold’ called for an advance that would not extend beyond supporting artillery that could assist in defeating the expected enemy counterattacks.

Brigadier General Hugh Elles, commanding the Tank Corps in France, and his chief staff officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Fuller, made a convincing case that with growing strength in France, the Corps could be used collectively to punch a hole into the enemy defences. Cambrai, being on relatively undamaged rolling chalk land, would be ideal which effectively made it tank fighting country.

Byng’s Army had also developed a scheme for a surprise attack using unregistered artillery. The Tank Corps much approved of the idea, for it would avoid the devastation of ground that had caused so much difficulty for the machines at Ypres.

Cambrai had been in German hands since 1914 and had become an important railhead and hgarrison town. With its railways connecting Douai, Valenciennes and Saint-Quentin and the Saint-Quentin canal, from which the front could be supplied along the River Scheldt men and material could be moved along the western front.

If captured it would deny the enemy a key part of his communication system. But it lay behind a formidable defensive position.

Haig approved the plan on 13 October 1917.

In Third Army orders – codenamed Operation GY –  issued on 13 November 1917, the attack was defined as a coup de main, “to take advantage of the existing favourable local situation” where “surprise and rapidity of action are  … of the utmost importance”. It was also to be a deep attack on a 10,000 yard (5.6 mile) front that would be “widened as soon as possible”.

Once the key German Masnieres-Beaurevoir line had been breached by III Corps, the cavalry would pass through, reach around to isolate Cambrai from the rear and cut the railways leading from it. Haig would later say that the purpose of the attack was to compel the enemy to withdraw from the salient between the Canal du Nord and the Scarpe, although the objectives must be achieved within 48 hours before strong enemy reserves could come into play. So the high speed and short tactical operation had somehow become one of seizing and holding ground, and while not quite a plan for strategic breakthrough – there were never enough reserves to exploit a breakthrough – the orders had faint resemblance to the original concepts.


Private 27436 George Ptolomey, born in 1891 and pictured with his wife Eva, both of whom married in 1916, George 25 and was serving with 9th Battalion, when he was killed in action on 20 November 1917. He was the son of Charles and Catherine Ptolomey. Previously to joining the Norfolk Regiment George had served in the East Yorkshire Regiment and had been medically discharged on 29th December 1914. He is buried in Grave I. B. 4. in Ribecourt British Cemetery

More than 1000 guns and howitzers were concealed on the fronts of III and IV Corps and the opening bombardment and a total of 476 tanks, including the new Mark IV version tanks, were moved up to the front on 18 and 19 November with aircraft flying up and down the area mask their sound as they moved up. Their objective would be to crush wire defences and suppress fire from trenches and strong points.

Fascines would be dropped as makeshift bridges enabling the crossing of a wide trench removed one of the known shortcomings of the current tank design. Much attention had been paid to training, particularly for co-operation between infantry and tank, with the units designated to make the initial assault being withdrawn to Wailly for this purpose. An innovation was that the infantry would follow the tanks through the gaps they made, moving in “worms” rather than the familiar lines: their training seems to have done much to improve infantry confidence in the tanks, hitherto seen as a mixed blessing. The tanks were a notable operational success. Shrouded by mist and smoke, they broke into the Hindenburg Line defences with comparative ease in many places.

Most importantly the Germans failed to identify the imminence and nature of the British attack

Six Divisions were used in the attack and from right to left they were the 12th (Eastern), 20th (Light), 6th, 51st (Highland), 62nd (West Riding) and 36th (Ulster). In immediate support was the 29th, and ready to exploit the anticipated breakthrough and sweep round Cambrai were the 1st, 2nd and 5th Cavalry Divisions. The Tank Corps deployed its entire strength of 476 machines and were led by the Tank Corps GOC, Hugh Elles, in a Mk IV tank called ‘Hilda’.

1 Leics Cambrai

A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion ditched in a German trench while supporting the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, one mile west of Ribecourt. Some men of the battalion are resting in the trench, 20 November 1917. (Image IWM)

The attack opened at 6.20am on the 20th November 1917 with an intensive predicted-fire barrage on the Hindenburg Line and key points to the rear, which caught the Germans by surprise. Initially, this was followed by the curtain of a creeping barrage behind which the tanks and infantry followed.

There was an issue with the cavalry and progress was slow when the bridge at Masnieres collapsed under weight of a tank. 

‘The 6th Division attacked on the front Villers Plouich-Beaucamps, with the 71st Infantry Brigade (Brig.-Gen. P. W. Brown) on the left next to the 51st Division, the 16th Infantry Brigade (Brig.-Gen. H. A. Walker) on the right next to the 20th Division. These two brigades were to advance about 3,000 yards to the first objective (Ribecourt and spur to south-east of it), and another 1,000 yards to the second objective (support system). The 18th Infantry Brigade (Brig.-Gen. G. S. G. Craufurd) was ordered to advance through the 71st Infantry Brigade and secure the third objective about a mile farther on (Prerny Chapel Ridge), throwing back a defensive flank towards Flesquieres for the further operations of the 51st Division on its left and securing the flank of the 29th Division on its right. The latter division passing through the right of the 6th Division and the left of the 20th Division, was charged with securing the crossings of the St. Quentin Canal at Marcoing and Masnieres and seizing the high ground at Rumilly, thus facilitating exploitation to the south-east, preventing a concentration against the widely stretched defensive flanks of the III Corps and threatening Cambrai.’

From the Short History of the 6th Division

The 5th Cavalry Division advanced through them but were repulsed in front of Noyelles.

The 51st (Highland) Division had a very hard fight for Flesquieres, but its failure to capture it and keep up with the pace of the advance on either side left a dangerous salient which exposed the flanks of the neighbouring Divisions.


A map from the Norfolk Regiment history listing the positions assaulted by the 9th Battalion at Cambrai

The 9th Battalion left Longuereuil on 15th November and reached Peronne 12 hours later. They then moved to Manancourt and then to Dessart Wood. On the 17th they took over the line to the south of Ribecourt although 30 men of the Rifle Brigade remained in the forward trenches to mask the fact that they had been relieved by a fresh battalion. 

‘Two battalions of tanks, each of thirty-six tanks, were allotted to the Division. ” B ” Battalion (Lt.-Col. E. D. Bryce, D.S.O.) operated with the 16th Infantry Brigade, and “H” Battalion (Lt.-Col. Hon. C. Willoughby) with the 71st Infantry Brigade. The 18th Infantry Brigade advanced without tanks. The only points which caused anxiety, provided that the tanks functioned satisfactorily, were Couillet Wood on the right of the 16th Infantry Brigade front, in which tanks could not operate, and Ribecourt Village on the left of the 71st Infantry Brigade front. The former was successfully cleared by the Buffs, and the latter gallantly captured by the 9th Norfolk Regiment; the 11th Essex clearing and securing it for the advance of the 18th Infantry Brigade, while the 71st Infantry Brigade attacked the second objective.’

From the Short History of the 6th Division

The 71st Brigade was ordered to capture Ribécourt village and the 9th Norfolks would move off after the first wave of tanks and would leap-frog over the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. The battalion advanced with ‘D’ Company on the right, ‘B’ Company in the centre and ‘D’ Company on the left, ‘C’ Company would follow in support. The advance was quick with infantry moving quicker than the slow lumbering tanks and the C.O. at that time, Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Henry Leather Prior, recorded the action of the battalion in an account.

‘…the leading tanks, followed by the Leicesters, crossing our trenches and starting across No Man’s Land – a wonderful spectacle in the half light of the early morning. Ponderous, grunting, groaning, wobbling, these engines of war crawled and lurched their way toward the enemy lines, followed by groups of men in file. Overhead our shells were pouring over. The barrage lifted from the enemy’s outpost trench, where we knew that Unseen Trench was getting it hot; but the slowness of those tanks! It is at these moments that one itches for quickness and rapidity, and the slow, deliberate action of these monsters was exasperating. Neither tanks nor Leicesters were clear of our lines when we reached ‘A’ Company.’

43112_1623_0-00274 (1)

A trench map from the battalion’s war diary showing the area where they assaulted

The C.O. followed his Battalion and very quickly found himself with ‘C’ Company who had outstripped both the tanks and the other three companies of the 9th Norfolks.

‘Ribécourt was immediately in front of us. I could see parties of the enemy running through the streets. Our artillery was putting down a smoke barrage on the farther side of the village, and several houses were on fire and blazing merrily. I had to decide whether to hang on in our present position and wait for the arrival of the tanks and the three other companies, or push ‘C’ Company in. The enemy already showed signs of recovering from the initial surprise. We were now being shelled pretty persistently and accurately, as well as machine-gunned. I determined to take immediate action, and directed Failes to push forward at once, take the part of the village lying on this side of the ravine, and hold the bridge crossing it. ‘C’ Company swept on and effected this in brilliant fashion, securing a large bag of prisoners.’

Ribecourt 11 Leicesters

Men of the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (6th Division) with Vickers machine guns in a captured second line trench at Ribecourt, 20 November 1917. (Image IWM)

The account sounds as though the advance was easy. However, in parts, it was not and A and B Companies met with strong opposition and became involved in hand to hand fighting. They came up against two machine guns which had to be knocked out at close quarters by a party led by Lieutenant John Hancock and C.S.M. Bertie Neale. Another machine gun was silenced by Lewis Gunners and it’s estimated that the Germans lost eighty killed or wounded and another six hundred wounded. 

By 9.00 a.m. the battalion had captured Ribécourt and were passed by the 11th Battalion Essex Regiment who went on to capture Kaiser Trench. The Norfolks then spent the rest of the day consolidating their gains.


Armes KIA 20 Nov 17

Private 40286 Thomas William Armes was born at Weasenham on 13th September 1892 and educated at Billingford school. He enlisted on 8th November 1915. He died from wounds on 21st November 1917 and is now buried in Grave I. F. 29. in Rocquigny-Equancourt British Cemetery. He was 25 and the son of Thomas and Annie Armes.

‘The Division had a most successful day, with very light casualties (about 650), capturing 28 officers and 1,227 other ranks prisoners, 23 guns, and between 40 and 50 machine-guns and many trench-mortars, and receiving the congratulations of the Corps Commander.’

From the Short History of the 6th Division 

IGN Ribecourt

The area assaulted by the 9th Norfolks on a French IGN map

Lt Col Prior noted in his account that,

‘It would be impossible to set out all the extraordinary incidents of that glorious day’ how Hancock and his sergeant major rushed an enemy machine gun position and settled a bet as to who would kill most Boches. This was won by Hancock, but Sergeant-Major Neale always contends that he was unduly handicapped by having to use his bayonet, whilst Hancock had a revolver. How a runner of ‘D’ Company, without assistance, took over seventy prisoners, including a staff officer. How Worn, wounded in the first hundred yards of the advance, carried on with his platoon until he reached his final objective, the railway station, and consolidated his position. How Thompson of ‘B’ Company, who in the darkness of the night prior to the attack had fallen down and very badly sprained his ankle, deliberately refused to go sick, and, with the aid of his servant, limped over in front of his platoon, and carried on until the objective was reached. How one man of ‘A’ Company having very daringly and very foolishly penetrated an enemy dugout, leaving his rifle outside, knocked down the Bosche who thrust his pistol at his head, seized the pistol and harried his opponent by the vigorous application of the butt end.’

Lieut George DYE 21 Nov 17

Lieutenant George Harry Gordon Dye was educated at Bracondale School and Christ’s Hospital and was a private schoolmaster and had enlisted in August 1914. He was 26 and the son of George Arthur and Ellen Ann Dye of Victoria Road in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. George died of wounds on 21 November 1917 and is now buried in Grave III. B. 23. Rocquigny-Equancourt British Cemetery.

The advance pushed four miles deep into a strong system of defence in little over four hours at a cost of just over 4000 casualties but 3rd Army failed to capture all of its objectives, with the cavalry being unable to push through a gap at Marcoing-Masnieres and on to encircle Cambrai itself and Bourlon Ridge did not fall that day. The Tank Corps lost 179 tanks destroyed, disabled or broken down. Cambrai would not remain a stunning victory for long.

Lt Col Prior finished his account by noting,

‘Some of these things are written down in the records of gallantry which have earned awards; many more and equally gallant actions never will be recorded, and some are recorded only in memory of those, and, alas! their number has sadly reduced who took part in that glorious first day of the fist battle of Cambrai.’

The 9th Norfolks lost 7 officers and 87 other ranks killed or wounded at Cambrai. 

Frank Edward Sabberton KIA 22 Nov 17

Private 43499 Frank Edward Sabberton who was born in Norwich on 23rd July 1889. He attended Angel Road School and enlisted 9th August 1914. Frank was aged 28 when he died and had served in “C” Company in the 9th Battalion. He was the son of Frank William and Emily Sabberton of St. Andrew Street in Norwich. He is now buried in Rocquigny-Equancourt British Cemetery


The two men I have mentioned as having assaulted the machine posts and the ones Lt Col Prior mentions having the bet were Lieutenant John Eliot Hancock and C.S.M. 7178 Bertie Mark Neale. Both won awards for this action Lt Hancock won a D.S.O. and C.S.M. Neale won a D.C.M. Both were listed in the London Gazette in 1918. 

London Gazette 4th February 1918
HANCOCK, JOHN ELIOT, Temporary Lieut., Norfolk Regt.
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Owing to his company commander being seriously wounded, he took command of the left company in an attack. ‘When they came under heavy machine-gun fire he organised a frontal attack while he, with two N.C.O.’s, rushed across the open from a flank, killed or wounded all the gun team and put the guns out of action. He himself killed six men. In the subsequent fighting he showed great initiative in clearing the houses in a village and directing the advance.’
London Gazette 4th March 1918
7178 C.S.M. B. M. Neale, Norf. R. (Swanton Novers).
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in volunteering with an officer and N.C.O. to put out of action some machine-guns that were holding up the advance of his company. Under heavy fire from the two guns he succeeded in doing this, and in the hand-to-hand fighting that ensued killed four of the enemy.’




















The 3rd Battle of Ypres (Part 6)

The 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment


22nd October 1917

Poelcappalle 22 Oct 17 No 7

An IWM image which states, ‘View from British front line trench in Poelcapelle (Poelkapelle), held by 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, showing the effect on the German trenches of the British bombardment, 13th September 1917.’ This cannot be correct as the battalion was still at Rubrouk at that time. So I think this is more than likely October 1917.

The 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment had not been involved in any of the major offensives since they had fought in August. After this they had been in training at Rubrouk until 23rd September and then spent the first 3 weeks of October around Ypres on the west bank of the canal.


The British front-line for 22nd October 1917. By that time half of the village was in British hands. The Norfolks went over the top from trenches to the left of this road and behind the camera. Poelcappelle Church can be seen on the right.

On 22nd October 1917 the battalion moved to Cane Trench and prepared for the next assault which would be to capture the remains of Poelcappelle. This village had remained mostly in German hands and the front-line, running from north to south, passed through the middle of it where the British line still was positioned just part what was left of the church. Previous to this planned attack the Germans had attempted to retake this area and some of their counter attacks had been successful.

Poelcappalle 22 Oct 17 No 4

Poelcappelle 22nd October 1917 and this trench map comes from the 8th Battalion war diary.

The village was now just rubble and was interlaced with German bunkers and littered with shell-holes. All previous attacks had failed and it was decided that this time the attack would come from a different direction and a feint would occur in order to try and fool the Germans. This was in the form of using dummy figures which was called a ‘Chinese Attack’. 

Chinese Attack

The type of dummies used in the Chinese Attack on 22nd October 1917 at Poelcappelle.

This type of attack had been carried out before and a Cyclist Battalion man within the 18th (Eastern) Division recounted how this type of operation worked.

‘When laid on the ground face downwards, two staples held it firm at the foot end, which was on a swivel. A thin wire would then be attached at the back and led to a trench or shell-hole in the rear. At a given time the wire would be pulled, up would come the dummy in an upright position looking from a distance as though men were going over the top. When hundreds of these things were used they were very realistic. One man in a shell-hole could operate four or five of these soldiers which would be thirty or forty yards in front of him.’

Private Valentine Magill Army Cyclist Corps


Looking back toward the position where the Brewery would have been. This was situated where the two light coloured buildings are today.

The 8th Norfolks would be given the task of capturing the rest of the village assisted by the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment. The Norfolks would lead the advance and the 10/Essex would follow up later on. Aluminium discs had been placed out prior to the attack as the whole area was just a sea of mud.


The position where Helles House would have been in 1917.

Once the initial objectives had been captured then the 10/Essex would leap-frog over the Norfolks and capture the secondary objectives. They would be supported by elements of the 34th Division on their left, which included the 3 Norfolk Field Companies which had been recruited in Norwich in 1915. 

Poelcappalle 22 Oct 17 No 5

Poelcappelle after its capture.

All four companies of the battalion would be involved in the assault and C and D Companies would lead with A and B following them. B Company would advance and capture Requete Farm.


Requete Farm

Zero Hour was set for 5.35 a.m. and would be supported by a barrage from 30th Division 3 minutes after that. B Company captured Requete Farm but then veered off to the right and the officer attempting to correct this, Lieutenant Symonds, was killed by a shell. B Company continued and advanced on another strong-point called Helles House and a number of bunkers to the north-east.

Edgar Smith KIA 22 Oct 17

Corporal 16088 Edgar Robert Smith MM who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. Edgar was the son of Isaac and Ann Smith of Weasenham near King’s Lynn. Edgar had served with the battalion since they had landed in France in July 1915. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Here the company captured Helles House but met with strong resistance from machine guns and a bombing party in the strong-points. These were dealt with and the company captured 1 officer and twenty five men, with another eleven wounded Germans being found in one of the bunkers.


Nobles Farm. The new front-line for 22nd October 1917 was positioned to the other side of the farm running left to right.

Although the bunkers caused problems with the Norfolk advance they were also quickly dealt with by surrounding them and dealing with the occupants. 

Poelcappalle 22 Oct 17 No 6

Poelcapelle after capture.

D Company and captured another strong-point called the Brewery at 6.50 a.m. but suffered casualties from an 18 pounder barrage. At 7.30 a.m. the 10/Essex passed through the captured positions and the Norfolk companies consolidated their positions.


Private 265787 Donald Sidney Price Gay who was born at Barton Turf who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. Donald was the husband of Gertrude E. Gooch (formerly Gay) of 15 Marlboro’ Road in Norwich. Donald is buried in Poelcapelle Military Cemetery and this picture was taken on 22nd October 2017, 100 years ago to the day he was killed.

Some of the Norfolks came under artillery fire which reduced their number from thirty-six to fourteen but the men held onto what they had captured.

George Balls KIA 22 Oct 17

Serjeant 40463 George Balls, aged 22, who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. George was the son of Mr and Mrs Richard Balls of 4 Connaught Road in Norwich. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial

The 10/Essex suffered heavy casualties and requested help from the Norfolks and they bolstered positions in front of Helles House, Nobles Farm and along the Spriet Road to Tracas Farm.

Sydney Smith KIA 22 Oct 17

Lance Corporal 3/7073 Sidney John Smith, aged 24, who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. Sidney was the son of Mrs Mary Smith of Pulham St. Mary.

Here the remnants of both battalions held the ground they had captured under heavy German artillery fire directed by spotter planes.


Tracas Farm which caused problems for the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment. This position was the extremity of the line of advance for both battalions.

This caused more casualties but the ground they captured was kept and they were relived by fresh troops in the evening and they returned back to Cane Trench. The casualties for this action were high. The battalion lost 6 officers and 224 men killed, wounded or missing.


Corporal 20967 Daniel Alfred Daniels, aged 31, who was in “A” Company and who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. Daniel was the son of William and Kathleen Daniels of Norwich and the husband of May Maud Daniels of 12 West End Street in Norwich. Daniel is buried in Poelcapelle Military Cemetery and this photo was taken on 22nd October 2017, 100 years to the day he was killed.

But the capture of Poelcapplle was described as a ‘gloriously won’ in the Norfolk’s history and that noted that the 18th Division history stated,

‘The triumphant Essex and Norfolks…tramped back to hear the whole division and General Maxse singing their praise.’

Walter Phillips DOW 24 Oct 17

Corporal 43693 Walter John Phillips, aged 24, who died of wounds on 24th October 1917. Walter was the only son of Walter John and Clara Phillips of 50 Guernsey Road in Norwich. He is now laid to rest in Grave XII. C. 24. in Dozinghem Military Cemetery.

100 years ago to the day the 8th Battalion advanced I visited the area. The day was bleak and windy and the fields around the area had been ploughed over for winter. 100 years ago this whole area was flooded due to the almost continuous shelling by both sides. Just walking on a ploughed field around this time of year gets your boots caked with mud. Just walking on tracks can be very difficult.


Looking toward the Brewery close to Helles House. This is a large part of the ground advanced over by the 8th Battalion on 22nd October 1917

So imagine what it must like when you have full kit, a rifle and a tin hat with an enemy firing at you with rifles, machine-guns, grenades and artillery. It always amazes me that anyone got through that maelstrom!


Lance Corporal 3/6895 Leonard Louis Smith from Felthorpe who was killed in action on 22nd October 1917. Leonard was a pre-war regular who had enlisted on 18th January 1911. He had served on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion since January 1915 and had been wounded in August 1916 but had been sent to the 8th Battalion in November 1916. He was the son of George Smith of the Oaks in Howford near Norwich. Leonard is one of a couple of Norfolk men who are buried in Poelcappelle Military Cemetery and this photo was take on 22nd October 2017 so 100 years to the day he was killed.











A Tale of Two Soldiers

Gunner 153455 Archie Snelling and Gunner 153456 Cornelius Skipper


Cornelius Skipper who served as a police officer in Norwich City Police and with 293rd Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of two Norwich City Police officers who served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in WW1. Cornelius had joined the police as PC 80 on 24th April 1909 and Archie had joined up as PC 124 on 1st April 1911.

When war broke out both men remained as police officers but both did apply to join the Army. Both men were initially refused but as the war progressed they were allowed to join and Archie & Cornelius joined up together on 30th March 1917 and their service numbers, 153455 and 153456, are one number apart.

Both went to No. 1 Depot at Rugeley the next day. Cornelius was then posted as Gunner to 412th Siege Battery based at Prees Heath and then, at the end of June, onto Lydd for live fire training. After a short period of leave he left Southampton with his battery on the 14th of August and arrived Le Havre the next day.

On the 24th of August 1917 one officer and 51 other ranks from the 412th joined the 293rd Siege Battery adding an extra section and making it up to six howitzers.


Cornelius was wounded on 11th October 1917 when his battery received counter battery fire and he died of wounds in 47 Casualty Clearing Station. On the day that he died a medic who tended to him wrote a letter to the Chief Constable of Norwich City Police stating,

To the Chief Constable Norwich City Police

I am very sorry to inform you that Gunner Skipper late of the Norwich Police passed away here yesterday 12th instant. I was on duty with him all night the 11th and he told me he was a Police Officer previous to joining up, I myself being a member of the Kent County Constabulary.

I thought I would take the liberty to write to let you know, he was well cared for during the brief time he was here and also I done all he wished, he died peacefully from a shrapnel wound in the chest, hoping you will forgive the liberty I am taking in writing.

Private A A Arnold RAMC

C Skipper Letter

The original letter sent by Private Arnold

Secondly his C.O. wrote to his widow and detailed what had happened,

Dear Madam,

I very much regret to have to inform you that your husband No 153456 Gunner Cornelius Skipper, serving in the Battery under my command was severely wounded in the right arm and back by the explosion of a hostile shell on the morning of 11th October 1917. He was immediately conveyed to the nearest dressing station where he was attended to by the medical officer in charge and after having his wounds dressed was sent to the Casualty Clearing Station by motor ambulance. Shortly after arrival he succumbed to his injuries.

I trust you will accept my deepest sympathy.

H S K Snowdon Major

C Skipper Letter 2

The original letter sent to Cornelius Skipper’s wife



Archie would have landed in France on 16th February 1917 with the rest of 248 Siege Battery. In October 1917 they were serving in 1 ANZAC Corps and the battery was located about 200 metres north east of Birr Cross Roads in the Ypres Salient. 

At that time they were in support of 1 and 2 ANZAC during the 1st Battle of Passchendaele. Archie was killed during counter battery fire operations.


Archie Snelling who served as a police officer in Norwich City Police and in 248 Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

Both men died on the same day and this I find very sad and I have paid my respects to both when I have been on battlefield tours.


Cornelius Skipper’s grave in Dozinghem Military Cemetery

Cornelius is buried in Grave X. F. 19. in Dozingham Military Cemetery and was the son of James and Harriett Skipper of Surlingham and the husband of Nellie H. Skipper of “The Cabin,” in Haynford.


Archie’s name on one of the Royal Garrison Artillery panels on the Tyne Cot Memorial

Archie has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, he was son of Mr and Mrs. Snelling of 190 Waterloo Road in Norwich and the husband of Ellen Snelling of 72 Avenue Road, Park Lane in Norwich.

Both were aged 28 when they died.












3rd Battle of Ypres (Part 5)

               Polderhoek Chateau

The 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment

9th October 1917

PHC No 5

Polderhoek Chateau prior to WW1

After Oppy Wood the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment had spent time around Beaumont but on 25th September 1917 it returned to Ypres, a place they had not served around since 1915. On 1st October they went into the reserve trenches around Dickebusch Lake. 

PHC No 7

The area around Polderhoek including the chateau

After a brief spell in reserve they were moved up to the front and were put into the line facing the Polderhoek Chateau. They had the 1/Cheshires on their left and the 16/Warwickshires on their right.

By now the weather had really set in and the ground around them was watery and described as ‘obnoxious’ with shell holes and craters filled with water. The conditions and difficulty with the weather are noted in their war diary,

‘Moved from support trenches in the early morning for attack on POLDERHOEK CHATEAU. Coys got on their kicking off position about 4 am. Very dark night and pouring with rain. Companies had a very difficult task to get on the tape but they managed it successfully, much to the credit of their Coy commanders.’

Since we saw the initial actions by the 8th Battalion there had been a series of battles fought around the Ypres Salient and the next action would be the start of the Battle of Poelcappelle. After gains had been made on 4th October the next attack was planned for 9th October along a front of 13,500 yards. The intention here was to capture Passchendaele Ridge.

Dix & Pembroke

Private 200762 Alan Jack Dix from Norwich and Private 26288 Horace Andrew Pembroke from Ilford. lan was killed in action during the attack on Polderhoek Chateau and Horace died when the battalion were in support trenches prior to moving up to the front. Both are buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery.

X Corps was to attack to hold German reserves around Becelaere and Gheluvelt. To the north, I Anzac Corps was to advance on the right flank of the main attack, with the 1st and 2nd Australian divisions, the 4th and 5th Australian divisions being in reserve. Further north, II Anzac Corps with the New Zealand and 3rd Australian divisions in reserve, was to attack two objectives, the 66th Division advancing along the main ridge, north of the Ypres–Roulers railway to just short of Passchendaele village and the 49th Division on either side of the Ravebeek stream, up Wallemolen spur to the Bellevue pillboxes.

If the first objectives were reached, the reserve brigades were to attack the second objectives in the afternoon. The second objectives were 800–1,000 yards ahead of the red line, beyond the village and the main ridge respectively. The reserve divisions were ready to move rapidly forward, by train from west of Ypres to continue the attack the next day.

On the 5th Army front, XVIII Corps with a brigade each from the 48th and 11th divisions, was to advance 1,200 yards up to the Poelcappelle spur and towards Westroosebeke on the main ridge. XIV Corps was to advance to the south edge of Houthoulst Forest with the 4th, 29th and Guards divisions, as the French First Army conformed on its left. Raids and artillery bombardments were arranged along the rest of the front, to deceive the Germans as to the objectives of the attacks.

There is an after action report in the war diary of the 1/Norfolks so we can follow the progress of their battle on 9th October 1917. But in the main body of the war diary there is a very brief summary which states,

‘Attacked the Chateau at 5:20 am. Attack was a failure owing to Battalion on our right apparently getting held up and losing direction. We had heavy casualties in officers and men.’

George William White KIA 9 Oct 17

Private 14775 George William White aged 25 who was the son of Edward John and Harriett Mary White of Wighton in Norfolk. George has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

At 4 a.m. the battalion moved from support trenches to the front. “C” Company would be on the right and “A” Company on the left. “B” Company would support both of the lead companies and “D” Company was held in reserve. They moved up in complete darkness and in heavy rain.

The barrage on the German line lifted at 5.20 a.m. and the Norfolks followed the Warwickshires who were leading the advance. Sadly both the rain and the darkness meant that the Norfolks veered off to the right and found themselves in front of the Chateau instead of the left of it. “B” Company was sent up to support the two lead companies who began to falter. But enemy artillery and machine gun fire began to take its toll, with no support from British artillery which had moved on. This led to heavy losses and no further progress could be made.

The after action report noted the following for the day,

1. Battalion formed up at zero – 1:30 “A” Company on the left – “C” Coy on the right – “B” Coy in close support – “D” Coy in section reserve. “D” Coy remained in reserve for counter attack purposes.

2. Our barrage lifting, the front line went forward but “C” Coy and half of “A” Coy made a right incline which brought them off their line and facing the Chateau.
Nos 1 and 2 Platoons followed the line, No 2 Platoon went slightly too much to their left and on reaching the objective found themselves isolated in front of the right of the Cheshire Regiment. They held on there till relieved on the night of the 10th-11th.

No 1 Platoon also went well forward about 400 yards. Then finding they had lost touch on the right, efforts were made to regain touch.

6 a.m. The Officer Commanding sent back a Sergeant to find out the situation. The Sergeant was wounded.

9 a.m. He then went back with a runner and was himself wounded.

9 p.m. Eventually the remnants of the Platoon rejoined the original front line by night.

5:30 a.m. Half “A” Coy and “C” Coy went half right and found themselves up against the Chateau

6 a.m. A retrograde movement on the part of these companies was checked by O.C. “B” Coy who threw his company in. By this time the enemy had opened cross M.G. fire and was bombing from wing trenches near the Chateau and the barrage had gone on. No further progress was made. By night the Companies were re-organised and the old line held.

Bertie Docking KIA 9 Oct 17

Private 13689 Bertie Docking who was killed in action on 9th October 1917 and who came from Brandon. He is now laid to rest in Grave 4 XII. H. 6. in Bedford House Cemetery, 

By 9 p.m. on 9th October 1917 the battalion was back where it had started and were out of the line by 11 p.m. The after action report had this to say about the failure.

The Battalion moved to relieve the KOSB at 1 a.m. on the night of 5-6th

The Battalion had no casualties on this relief. The men had no great coats and suffered a good deal. Shelling went on all the while and losses were steady. The support companies suffered most from this shelling.

Trenches can easily be dug in but it is extremely difficult to keep them in good repair as the wet causes them to fall in.

They and all shell holes fill with water.

The men had no hot food all the time from leaving Bedford House till after relief on the night of the 10th – 11th.

I think the failure was due to the worn condition of the men and the bad weather.

PHC No 3

The area around the Polderhoek Chateau which can be seen centrally

Losses on this day were high with 3 officers killed and 4 wounded other ranks casualties amounted to 38 killed and 246 wounded or missing.

Challis KIA 9 Oct 17

Lance Corporal 290071 Bertie Challis who was killed in action on 9th October 1917. Bertie came from Brandon and is now laid to rest in Grave IX. L. 4. in Hooge Crater Cemetery.

The day after the attack saw the battalion being commanded by one officer and wounded were left out in no-man’s land with stragglers coming in all day. After they were relieved the battalion was sent to Berthen where it reorganised receiving drafts of men.


Private 22336 Albert Bertie Hardiment aged 30 who was the son of J. and Mary Ann Hardiment who came from Hellesdon and is now laid to rest in Hooge Crater Cemetery.

On 22nd October 2017 I walked the area where the chateau once stood. Nothing remains of it now but with the use of a good Belgian IGN map and a trench map you can still walk the area.

PHC No 2

The remains of Polderhoek Chateau after the fighting


Nothing remains of Polderhoek Chateau today although the track that leads to it can still be seen.


The rough area today where the chateau once stood.


Shell casing found on the site of Polderhoek Chateau.