- Monmouthshire Regiment during the Great War -
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Monmouthshire Regiment 1st Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 2nd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 3rd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 2/1st Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 2/2nd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 2/3rd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 3/1st Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 3/2nd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 3/3rd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment 4th Btn
1st Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment was a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ in Stow Hill, Newport, it was part of the Welsh Border Infantry Brigade, Welsh Division. When war was declared in August 1914, they were at once mobilised for war and moved at once to defend Pembroke Dock. They moved to Oswestry by the 10th of August and were at Northampton by the end of August. In December they moved to Bury St Edmunds and to Cambridge in January 1915. They proceeded to France on the 13th of February to join 84th Brigade in 28th Division, who were concentrating in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck, being joined by additional Territorial units. In 1915 they were in action in The Second Battle of Ypres, suffering very heavy losses and on the 27th of May they amalgamated with the 1/2nd and 1/3rd Bns at Vlamertinghe, resuming their own identity on the 11th of August. On the 3rd of September they transferred as a Pioneer Battalion to 46th (North Midland) Division. They were in action during The attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt in October. On the 23rd of December the were ordered to proceed to Egypt via Marseilles leaving the DAC, Divisional Train and the Mobile Veterinary Section behind. All units had arrived by the 13th of January 1916 but they spent just a few days in Egypt, being ordered to return to France where the units left behind rejoined. On the 1st of July 1916 they took part in The diversionary attack at Gommecourt. In 1917 they were in action during the Operations on the Ancre, Occupation of the Gommecourt defences, The attack on Rettemoy Graben, The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, The attack on Lievin and The Battle of Hill 70. In 1918 they saw action in The Battle of the St Quentin canal, including the passage of the canal at Bellenglise, The Battle of the Beaurevoir Line, The Battle of Cambrai, The Battle of the Selle and The Battle of Sambre. At the Armistice, the advance units of the Division were at Sains-du-Nord. The Division moved back to Landrecies on the 15th of November then to the Le Cateau area in early January 1919 where demobilisation began.
2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment was a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ in Osbourne Road, Pontypool, it was part of the Welsh Border Infantry Brigade, Welsh Division. When war was declared in August 1914, they were at once mobilised for war and moved to defend Pembroke Dock. By the 10th of August they moved to Oswestry and by beginning of September they were at Northampton. They proceeded to France on the 7th of November 1914 landing at Le Havre to join 12th Brigade, 4th Division. They fought in The Second Battle of Ypres, then moved South to the somme where they were were attached to 36th (Ulster) Division, providing instruction to the newly arrived Division. On the 30th of January 1916 the Battalion left 4th Division and moved to the Lines of Communication. On the 1st of May 1916 they became a Pioneer Battalion, joining 29th Division who had just arrived from Egypt. In July they went into action in the Battles of the Somme. In 1917 they were in action in the The First, Second and Third Battle of the Scarpe during the Arras Offensive, then moved to Flanders and fought in the The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Broodseinde and The Battle of Poelcapelle. Before moving south for The Battle of Cambrai. In 1918 they were in action in The Battle of Estaires, at Messines and The Battle of Hazebrouck including the defence of Nieppe Forest and The Battle of Bailleul. They were involved in The Action of Outtersteene Ridge, The capture of Ploegsteert and Hill 63 during the Advance in Flanders. At the Armistice the 29th Division was selected to march into Germany to occupy the Rhine bridgehead, they crossed the Belgian-German border at Malmedy on the 4th of December 1918.
3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment was a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ in Abergavenny, it was part of the Welsh Border Infantry Brigade, Welsh Division. When war was declared in August 1914, they were mobilised to Pembroke Dock but had moved to Oswestry by the 10th of August and went on to at Northampton by the end of August. In December they moved to Bury St Edmunds and then to Cambridge in January 1915. On the 14th of February they left the Division and proceeded to France to join 83rd Brigade, 28th Division who were concentrating in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck. In 1915 they were in action in The Second Battle of Ypres, suffering heavy casualties, on the 27th of May they amalgamated with the 1/1st and 1/2nd Battalions, resuming their own identities on the 11th of August. They also fought in The Battle of Loos. On the 2nd of September they transferred to 49th (West Riding) Division as as a Pioneer Battalion. In 1916 They were in action in the Battles of the Somme and on the 9th of August they left the Division and became GHQ Troops. On the 31st of August, the battalion was disbanded with troops transferring to 1/1st and 1/2nd Monmouths.
5th Aug 1914 3rd Monmouths given Rousing send off. The whole battalion of the 3rd Monmouths gathered outside the Market Hall in Abergavenny at dawn on the 5th August. Later that day they were marched to Bailey Park where they were given tea. The battalion colours were handed over to the custody of the Mayor and the corporation of Abergavenny. They left the market square of the ancient Borough of Abergavenny to a rousing send off by flag waving citizens. Down the road, out of the Town, over the bridge of the Given River and up the rise to The Great Western railway station, still there today. Two troop trams were ready and waiting, the soldiers boarded bound for Pembroke Dock and what was to be for these Welshmen, a lifetime's adventure. But for many Monmouthshire men the surrounding mountains, the Blaring, the Skirred and the Dei, were the to be their last sight of home.
6th Aug 1914 3rd Monmouths join Welsh Border Brigade The 3rd Monthouths joined the Welsh Border Brigade at Oswestry. It rained continuously for days as the Battalion settled under canvas, advanced parties had been sent to Oswestry where the Division was to assemble. The Brigade, including the 3rd Mons, were moved en masse to Oswestry, a prosperous, country town which welcomed the huge body of troops arriving at such short notice. The Battalion had simple fare, rested in local establishments and was in fine spirits. The Battalion's animals and vehicles were moved by road and arrived a few days later, the organisation being made by Lieutenant Martin the Purchasing Officer who had bought the horses in Monmouthshire County.
10th Aug 1914 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Monmouths and the Welsh Border Brigade moved en masse to Oswestry, a prosperous, country town which welcomed the huge body of troops arriving at such short notice. The Battalion had simple fare, rested in local establishments and was in fine spirits. The Battalion's animals and vehicles were moved by road and arrived a few days later, the organisation being made by Lieutenant Martin the Purchasing Officer who had bought the horses in Monmouthshire County.
30th Aug 1914 3rd Monmouths move to Northampton The 3rd Monmouths left Oswestry on 30th August when the battalion moved into billets at Northampton. Headquarters were set up at St James's Church Institute with the fields at the rear being used as their training ground. The Battalion stayed in Northampton until the end of October.
31st Oct 1914 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment moved from Northampton to work on the East Coast Defensive System where trenches were dug and when finished they were equipped with shelters, barbed wire and machine-guns. At this time the threat of an invasion was considered to be real enough and the tedium of routine work was relieved by rumours of bombardments and attempted landings. At this time the British Army in France was fighting against heavy odds, the advance of the German Army appeared to be only temporarily checked. This situation gave rise to great anxiety for all. So when orders were received that the Battalion were to return to Northampton to refit for service in India, the prospect of serving in India was not very well received.
Nov 1914 3rd Monmouths to defend East Coast The 3rd Monmouths left Northampton in November moved to work on the East Coast Defensive System where trenches were dug and when finished they were equipped with shelters, barbed wire and machine -guns. At this time the threat of an invasion was considered to be real enough and the tedium of routine work was relieved by rumours of bombardments and attempted landings. At this time the British Army in France was fighting against heavy odds, the advance of the German Army appeared to be only temporarily checked. This situation gave rise to great anxiety for all. So when orders were received that the Battalion were to return to Northampton to refit for service in India , the prospect of serving in India was not very well received. The Indian equipment soon arrived for the Battalion but to everyone's relief the orders for India were countermanded. As the arrangements were not completed for sending the Battalion anywhere overseas they were to return to the East Coast and continue working on the defence line in Suffolk . The Battalion stayed here until January 1915.
A vast amount of work was achieved while on the East Coast, miles of trenches dug, wire entanglements and shelters put in place and all in unfavourable weather conditions. The G.O.C.-in C. Central Force giving much praise to the Battalion for the accomplishment it had achieved issued a special order.
14th Nov 1914 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment returned to Northampton to refit for service in India.
18th Nov 1914 3rd Monmouths equip for India The Indian equipment arrived in Northampton for the The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, but to everyone's relief the orders for India were then countermanded and they were ordered back to the Suffolk Coast.
Jan 1915 3rd Monmouths refit for India Leaving the East Coast by train for Cambridge the soldiers had very happy memories for the grateful, local residents bestowed much kindness on the Officers and men helping to ease the discomfort of their duties and during the atrocious weather.
While the Battalion was in Cambridge it was reorganised into four double Companies, consisting of tried and tested soldiers and all who had volunteered for service. Drafts from the reserve Battalion were arriving to make up the force of the original Battalion, these were fit men who were able to replace those found unsuitable for overseas service, during the final selection. They were issued with new service equipment, rifles and bayonets and their old equipment was passed on. For the rest of their stay in Cambridge they were subjected to rigorous courses of exercises in movements in this formation, and instructions and practice in bayonet fighting, all carried out on the famous area, Parker's Piece. Early in January the Battalion now assembled was in its final form. Along with others, the Battalion was selected for overseas service and the final orders arrived for proceeding overseas to France, this news raised Welsh spirits.
10th Jan 1915 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment had achieved a vast amount of work while on the East Coast, miles of trenches dug, wire entanglements and shelters put in place and all in unfavourable weather conditions. The G.O.C.-in C. Central Force gave much praise to the Battalion for the accomplishment it had achieved issued a special order. Leaving the East Coast by train for Cambridge the soldiers had very happy memories for the grateful, local residents bestowed much kindness on the Officers and men helping to ease the discomfort of their duties and during the atrocious weather.
11th Jan 1915 3rd Monmouths reorganised The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, in Cambridge, was reorganised into four double Companies, consisting of tried and tested soldiers and all who had volunteered for service. Drafts from the reserve Battalion began to arrive to make up the force of the original Battalion, these were fit men who were able to replace those found unsuitable for overseas service, during the final selection. They were issued with new service equipment, rifles and bayonets and their old equipment was passed on. For the rest of their stay in Cambridge they were subjected to rigorous courses of exercises in movements in this formation, and instructions and practice in bayonet fighting, all carried out on the famous area, Parker's Piece.
11th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths inspected His Majesty, King George V, inspected his First Welsh Division on Parker's Piece, Cambridge, before it left for the Flanders' battlefields, it was noted to be 'a fitting and historic conclusion to the period of preparation of gallant volunteers' Khaki-clad soldiers were assembled and as the Division presented arms, after a royal salute, it was a memorable sight of 'of shimmering steel'. 'Three cheers for the King' was called for and caps were raised aloft on bayonet tips, the roar was continually repeated as the Welsh warriors paid tribute to His Majesty. On a specially built low platform, covered in red cloth, the King and high-ranking Officers stood and received the salutes of the Division. Infantry wearing greatcoats, in double columns of four and accompanied by horses and guns marched passed the saluting base to military music. A very impressive spectacle. A general order was issued expressing His Majesty's pleasure when observing the presence and the discipline of the Welsh Division, he sent his compliments on the polished manner in which the march past and movements had been accomplished. A fitting finale prior to leaving the shores for the fateful battlefields of France and Flanders, as there was many men that would not return.
13th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths embark for France In the cold, grey dawn of 13 February the 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment paraded for the last time in Britain and before the residents of Cambridge had awakened the troop trains had pulled out and left for Southampton, detailed to reinforce Regular Brigades in the field. Having arrived at the port the soldiers, horses, transport and baggage boarded the SS Chyabassa and were ready to leave port for Le Havre. It was evening before SS Chyabassa sailed, throughout the voyage no lights were permitted while crossing the Channel, because of the fear of submarine activity. The waterway was full of ships similarly wending their way across to France, under the cover of darkness and the protection of the Royal Navy. It was a slow stealthy crossing, uneventful except for sudden changes of course, which distressed the horses.
15th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths arrive in France When the troopship docked in Le Havre at 8 a.m. on the morning of the 15 th February, thronging crowds lined the quayside waving flags, cheering, singing, welcoming the Welshmen, for these were early days of War, spirits and enthusiasm was high. The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment made camp on the cliffs above Le Havre.
16th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths in France After a cold night under canvas on the cliffs above Havre, the 3rd Monmouth Battalion marched to the railway station where after a leisurely journey they arrived at Bavinchove at 5p.m on February 17 th. They were then marched on to Cassel (then the G H Q of the French Northern Army) and there the soldiers were accommodated in public buildings.
17th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths on the march The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment arrived by train at Bavinchove. They then marched on to Cassel, the GHQ of the French Northern Army and there the soldiers were accommodated in public buildings.
18th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths move to Steenvorde On the morning of the 18th the battalion moved to billets at Steenvorde, about 14 miles west of Ypres . They had their first experience of marching on the Pave, a road surface of uneven stone, which in wet weather became treacherous to the heavily loaded infantryman. Orders were issued during this period assigning the 3 rd Monmouth's to the 83rd Infantry Brigade, which came under the 28th Division, which was commanded at this time by Major General Bulfin.
19th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths on the march The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment moved from Cassel to billets at Steenvorde, about 14 miles west of Ypres. They had their first experience of marching on the Pave, a road surface of uneven stone, which in wet weather became treacherous to the heavily loaded infantryman. Orders were issued during this period assigning the 3rd Monmouth's to the 83rd Infantry Brigade, which came under the 28th Division, which was commanded at this time by Major General Bulfin.
28th Feb 1915 3rd Monmouths on the march The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment left Steenvorde, and after marching a few miles to Caestre they were conveyed to Bailleul on a fleet of old London omnibuses; here they met up with the rest of the division. The battle zone was very close now, the flicker of flares was to be seen and the thunder of heavy guns was incessant. The smell of cordite and freshly turned, wet earth hung heavily in the cold air, so different from the peaceful Monmouthshire countryside they left some weeks ago. The residents of the town provided billets for the troops and this was a time of acclimatising them to their new environment. There were instruction courses for making and using bombs and grenades, and detailed advice for trench digging. All ranks were kept fit by field exercises and arduous route marches and always under the critical eye of the Higher Command of the Expeditionary Forces.
1st Mar 1915 3rd Monmouths go into the front line After spending the night at St Jans Capelle on the outskirts of Bailleul, the Welsh troops were taken by a fleet of old London buses to Bailleul, where they joined the 28th Division, commanded by Major General Bulfin and spent the night on the out-skirts the town, St Jans Capelle. On the 1 st March, St David's day, the first men were sent up to the front for instruction with the 1 st Welsh Regiment. In a letter to his parents Private G Norton of A Company wrote: "The firing line is not as bad as you would think, at least it is not so bad as we expected it to be. The trenches we have been in are dry ones, and the only thing is the cold nights. We were shelled rather heavily last Tuesday; but our guns gave them something after. The men we were in with didn't seem to mind much. They say, “Keep your napper down and you're alright!” " (Dixon, With Rifle and Pick, 1990).
6th Mar 1915 3rd Monmouths training in the front line Private James B. Bowes, 3rd Monmouths of Wargrave, writing home, gives some picturesque details of life at the front. The following are extract from his letter, which appeared in the Newton and Earlestown Guardian on 19 th March 1915 :- "We do four days in the trenches, then come back for four days' rest. The firing line is about eight miles away. The other day we had our pay, and we are now spending it. I and two others go down to a small farm. French woman; eight children; husband a captain in the French army. There we have what we can get - café-au-lait, bread and butter, and eggs. As the eggs are 3d. each, there is, of course, more bread than eggs. Everything is very dear; penny chocolate is 2d. bread 8d. a loaf, butter 2s. per lb. At night we are able to get chips. Most of the houses and "pubs" or "estaminets" are wrecked, and so are the churches and farms, but the people are coming back to the places they left. Nearly every farmer here has two or three Belgian refugees employed. Dirty farms, very, compared with English. Sanitation is not considered here, anywhere. Good job it is winter and not summer. I have moved my little bed from the loft with the battered roof down to the cow-shed, and I am sleeping with a long row of cows about three yards from me. It is better, as there was no roof over my head before. The socks will be very welcome, as my feet are always wet. Although my boots are good, they get sodden. For the trenches we have rubber jack boots, so they are alright. The other night some of our chaps in getting to the trenches had to climb over an obstacle. One of them was holding up his hand in the dark to be pulled up by his mate, when he grasped what he found by the touch was the hand of a chap who had been covered up; - one who had "gone on". They are very plentiful, and you see different parts sticking out of the soil. The Germans, if you shoot one of them, will signal a "bull" with a spade and shortly afterwards will throw the body over. It acts as a sandbag, and helps stop bullets. I am longing for the time when we will be coming back. Tell O. to fill the pantry, but she needn't get any jam in, or biscuits, at any rate not "Army No.4" 4 in. by 4 in. by ¾ in. "bullet proof". I am "in the pink", and could eat ten Germans - not to mention killing. Glad to hear Ernie is all right at Pembroke Dock. I expect he will be out here soon." Private No. 2155 James B. Bowes, 3rd. Monmouthshire Regt.
The Territorials found themselves side by side with professional soldiers of the most highly trained army in the world. They were given help, encouragement and support and it was never forgotten that they were raw troops.
12th Mar 1915 3rd Monmouths in the trenches The training rotation period came to an end on the 12th March when they were assigned to trenches on the west slope of the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge, just outside the village of Wulverghem 5 miles south of Ypres . They were responsible for about a 1000yds of the trenches known as 10a and 10b. The trenches were on the West slope of Messines-Wytschsete Ridge. The line ran southeast to Pleogsteert and northwest to Kemmel and Wulverghem village lay in a depression behind. The village buildings gave some protection from rifle fire as the Welsh troops marched forward but the air was filled with stray bullets, whistling perilously close, as they approached the trenches. The Battalion's Headquarters were in the village of St Quentin Cabaret , and Companies were posted either side of the Wulverghem - Messines Road . This was the first experience of trench warfare for the 3rd Mons , Officers and men, the sector they were in reputedly was a quiet one but the enemy was continuously active. The lighter calibre guns directed fire against them throughout the day and the occasional trench mortar that was thrown caused effective damage.
To undertake repair work was a dangerous task, for enemy marksmen closely watched the breach and repeated rifle fire was non-stop. This persistent firing, disturbed the stability of the trenches, the unrelenting weather conditions and the continual flooding of the trenches made it necessary for constant maintenance in the most dangerous positions. The enemy had better equipment and continually fired from fixed rifles and machine guns at miscellaneous tactical positions and their trenches too were better defended too, with wire entanglement. So the Battalion's guns fell silent because of shortage of ammunition, particularly high explosive shells. The conditions for the Battalion were miserable, great caution was taken when lighting fires for curling smoke received enemy attention very quickly. Although food was satisfying and in good supply it was monotonous, rum and lime juice was dispensed in medicinal doses and cigarettes became the comfort but all this was supplemented by parcels from kind friends and families back home in Wales.
Unfortunately in the early days of being in the trenches the Battalion suffered many casualties, including an Officer and it was only by bitter experience that they learned; it was care and alertness in trench warfare that kept them safe. Soon enemy action became much more intense and the number of heavy German guns increased and by the end of March the village and the church of Wulverghem was completely destroyed.
The conditions of the line were extremely miserable, the least rainfall flooded the shelters in the trenches, and the close proximity of the enemy severely restricted movement. Fires could only be lit and tended with great care, as any sign of smoke would soon receive some enemy attention.
19 Mar 1915 Life in the trenches Private James B. Bowes, of Wargrave, writing home, gives some picturesque details of life at the front. The following are extract from his letter, which appeared in the Newton and Earlestown Guardian on 19th March 1915 :-
"We do four days in the trenches, then come back for four days' rest. The firing line is about eight miles away. The other day we had our pay, and we are now spending it. I and two others go down to a small farm. French woman; eight children; husband a captain in the French army. There we have what we can get - cafe-au-lait, bread and butter, and eggs. As the eggs are 3d. each, there is, of course, more bread than eggs. Everything is very dear; penny chocolate is 2d. bread 8d. a loaf, butter 2s. per lb. At night we are able to get chips. Most of the houses and "pubs" or "estaminets" are wrecked, and so are the churches and farms, but the people are coming back to the places they left. Nearly every farmer here has two or three Belgian refugees employed. Dirty farms, very, compared with English. Sanitation is not considered here, anywhere. Good job it is winter and not summer. I have moved my little bed from the loft with the battered roof down to the cow-shed, and I am sleeping with a long row of cows about three yards from me. It is better, as there was no roof over my head before. The socks will be very welcome, as my feet are always wet. Although my boots are good, they get sodden. For the trenches we have rubber jack boots, so they are alright. The other night some of our chaps in getting to the trenches had to climb over an obstacle. One of them was holding up his hand in the dark to be pulled up by his mate, when he grasped what he found by the touch was the hand of a chap who had been covered up; - one who had "gone on". They are very plentiful, and you see different parts sticking out of the soil. The Germans, if you shoot one of them, will signal a "bull" with a spade and shortly afterwards will throw the body over. It acts as a sandbag, and helps stop bullets. I am longing for the time when we will be coming back. Tell O. to fill the pantry, but she needn't get any jam in, or biscuits, at any rate not "Army No.4" 4 in. by 4 in. by 3/4in. bullet proof. I am "in the pink", and could eat ten Germans - not to mention killing. Glad to hear Ernie is all right at Pembroke Dock. I expect he will be out here soon." Private No. 2155 James B. Bowes, 3rd. Monmouthshire Regt.
2nd Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths relieved by 5th Staffords Enemy action became much more intense over the last weeks of March and the number of heavy German guns increased and by the end of March the village and the church of Wulverghem was completely destroyed. The conditions of the line were extremely miserable, the least rainfall flooded the shelters in the trenches, and the close proximity of the enemy severely restricted movement. Fires could only be lit and tended with great care, as any sign of smoke would soon receive some enemy attention. After nearly a month of continuous fighting in the trenches the 3rd Mons Battalion's tour of duty was over in this area and on 2nd April, Good Friday, tired and weary Welshmen were relieved by the 5th South Staffords. Later that night they were withdrawn from the Wulvergham sector and moved out to Bailleul. The soldiers now had considerable knowledge of the conditions of war but they left behind many of their buddies, in the little Wulvergham cemeteries. A lot of credit had been gained for the manner in which they had conducted themselves in the trenches and with spirits still undaunted they were ready for rest in new billets.
6th Apr 1915 Welsh Border Brigade Inspected At Bailleul the whole brigade assembled for inspection by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, their Army Commander.
7th Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths on the move After a few days rest and recreation, equipment was reissued and the Battalion were on the move again, marching to Boeschepe, two and half miles north-west of Westoutre. Once settled the Adjutant, Company Commanders reconnoitred the trenches east of Ypres, held by the French troops. Vigorous enemy action was anticipated and the Division had the responsibility of an important area, the immortal Ypres Salient. This area had a reputation for it was most vulnerable to attack being a salient. It could be likened roughly to a saucer with the German Army in the secure position on the rim. The territory lying behind the line could be clearly observed from Passchendaele and Messines Ridge, both of which lay at the rear of the enemy lines.
8th Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths at Polygon Wood An early Easter came and went and after a few days rest and recreation, equipment was reissued and the Battalion were on the move again, marching to Boeschepe, two and half miles north-west of Westoutre. Once settled the Adjutant, Company Commanders reconnoitred the trenches east of Ypres, held by the French troops. Vigorous enemy action was anticipated and the Division had the responsibility of an important area, the immortal Ypres Salient. This area had a reputation for it was most vulnerable to attack being a salient. It could be likened roughly to a saucer with the German Army in the secure position on the rim. The territory lying behind the line could be clearly observed from Passchendaele and Messines Ridge, both of which lay at the rear of the enemy lines
The battalion arrived on the morning of the 8 th April in the Grande Place at Ypres . The famous Cloth Hall and St Martins Cathedral were wrapped in a mysterious gloom. When the warring armies dug in during the winter of 1914-1915, the allied lines developed a large bulge around the ancient Belgian town of Ypres ; this was the infamous Ypres Salient. The lay of the land meant that the German Armies surrounded the British forces on three sides The orders were given to draw rations and go to the trenches. The battalion moved off through the Menin Gate, up the Zonnebeke Road to Frezenberg, on to Polygon Wood in the Southeast of the Ypres Salient. Before the War high pine trees grew in Polygon Wood, in a light soil with sandy patches, but when the Battalion arrived every big tree was down and underfoot was thick undergrowth and shrub.
The Battalion's Headquarters were dug-outs in a mound - the Butte de Polygon, the Australian War Memorial now stands on this site, the rest of the battalion took over the trenches from the their previous occupants, 2 nd Battalion of the 146th Regiment of the French Army. The French appear to adopted the “Live and let live” attitude of trench warfare. The men of the Monmouth's were treated to the site of the Germans opposite cooking their breakfasts in braziers on top of the parapet. Action was instigated to stop this but it provoked a reply of rifle grenades and whizz bangs that knocked the trenches about. The dug-outs taken over from the French were not very deep, giving very little protection from rifle fire or the inclement weather, so what protection there was from the smaller pine trees was welcomed. At least they gave cover to the dugouts from the air when enemy aircraft were active. Polygon Wood was exposed to fire from the south and the east, and at the quarter to of every hour, throughout twenty-four hours, a German field-gun fired a shell in the general direction of the Headquarters, fortuitously they all crashed amongst the trees. The trenches were of irregular line and lay east and southeast of the Wood. The parapets were of poor construction and certainly not bullet-proof, the dugouts and traverses were few and in front were a few coils of light wire.
The enemy was 200 yards away to the right and within bombing distance to the left. The right trench was called Pall Mall and the left Whitehall , the 3rd Mons Battalion took over these trenches and began to settle in. Private Reg Pritchard wrote home to his sister: "It is much worse fighting where we are now to what it was in the last place. One of the chaps out of the same section as I am got wounded in the leg yesterday morning as we were leaving the trenches. One man got killed in our company by a trench mortar shell, he was in the same platoon as Dad" 'Dad' was Sergeant William Pritchard both he and his son Private Reg Pritchard were killed on 2nd May 1915 .
12th Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths relieved by 5th KOYLI The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment was relieved by the 5th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and went into billets in Ypres. This gave the men a chance to explore this famous old city, although seriously damaged by shelling there was still a thriving café trade and many shops that stock not only wine and cigars but also useful items such as batteries for electric torches and solidified fuel.
17th Apr 1915 Hill 60 Blown up On the 17th April the news came to the resting soldiers of the 3rd Monmouths, that Hill 60 had been blown up and captured by the 13th Brigade. Parties from the 1st and 3rd Monmouthshire Battalions had helped in this by virtue of their expertise in mining operations. A detachment of 40 men under Lieutenant Lancaster had been sent to join the new unit – the 171 st Tunnelling Company in February. As expert mineworkers, from the Valleys above Abergavenny, they had distinguished themselves and the Battalion was justly proud. But amongst the rejoicing they had to leave Ypres and return to the trenches. British guns were in action on both sides of the Zonnebeke Road and it was a relief for them all to turn off the cobbled road, go across country and reach Frezenberg before the Germans retaliated. The battalion relieved the 5th King's Own and finding things much as before they carried on with their every day routine. They would remain in the trenches for the next 17 days.
22nd Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths in the line The 3rd Monmouth Battalion relieved the 5th King's Own and finding things much as before they carried on with their every day routine. But there they stayed without relief, for 17 days, the 5th Kings Own never came again and the Welshmen waited patiently for relief, amid rumour after rumour as to the war activities. They knew that heavy bombardment had started a few miles north of the 3rd Mons position and during the following days rumour after rumour began to circulated about what had happened on the fateful day of 22nd of April. They heard that 18,000 Canadians withstood the first Western Front poison gas attack and could scarcely believe the news. On the 22 April an event occurred that was a major event in the war, the first use of gas as a weapon of war. This attack caused widespread panic among French troops and German forces swept through the gaps, which opened up in the front line. Canadian and British troops struggled to hold back the attack but, after suffering constant shelling and very high casualties, they were forced to retreat to a new defensive line.
24th Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths in the line On the 24 April authentic news was brought to the 3rd Monmouth Battalion's trenches about what had being happening elsewhere in the battle zone; the first gas attack had indeed taken place. The French had retreated on the north point of the Salient; the enemy had broken the Allied Line along Pilckem Ridge; the 1st Division Canadians had won honour and fame by filling the vital gap in the Line and helped to save the town of Ypres . The British had repeated counter attacks and stemmed the advance of the enemy towards Ypres . History would record that day as the start of the bloody Battle of St Julien, when the Germans took the village of St Juliaan and it would continue until 24th May.
29th Apr 1915 3rd Monmouths in the line The 3rd Monmouth Battalion's war diary records that they had only to stand by in the Polygon Line and '29 April, was, a very quiet day'. But even 'very quiet days' brought casualties, 2nd Lieutenant Onions, the son of the Welsh Miner's Leader, was killed as he marched his men back to the dug-outs behind the Wood. He was the first fatal casualty of the 3rd Mons Officers. The general situation was worse than anyone knew. The gas attack had broken the line in the north of the Salient and the German guns were brought up to Pilckem Ridge. Polygon Wood was the most easterly position of the area and now it was developing into a bottle shaped zone, untenable for the 3rd Mons.
1st May 1915 3rd Monmouths withdraw To avoid the danger of being cut off at the neck of the zone and shorten the Line, the order was given to withdraw and the The 3rd Monmouth Battalion began to move back. The Line now ran just east of Hooge Chateau and Frezenberg, south of St Julien and converged onto the Yser Canal near Boesinghe and the trenches of the GHQ line crossed the main road just east of the Potizje Chateau. The front Line was now shortened by 5,000 yards and the Wood evacuated. The movement was started on the night of 1 May evacuating dumps and bringing back the guns. All ammunition and trench stores were removed as well. The whole operation was under the control of Welsh Officers, posted at the north west corner of the Wood and in telephone communication with the Brigade Headquarters.
1st May 1915 British in retreat The general situation was worse than anyone knew. The gas attack had broken the line in the north of the Salient and the German guns were brought up to Pilckem Ridge. Polygon Wood was the most easterly position of the area and now it was developing into a bottle shaped zone, untenable for the 3rd Mons. To avoid the danger of being cut off at the neck of the zone and shorten the Line, the order was given to withdraw. The Line now ran just east of Hooge Chateau and Frezenberg, south of St Julien and converged onto the Yser Canal near Boesinghe and the trenches of the GHQ line crossed the main road just east of the Potizje Chateau. The front Line was now shortened by 5,000 yards and the Wood evacuated. The movement was started on the night of 1 May evacuating dumps and bringing back the guns. All ammunition and trench stores were removed as well. The whole operation was under the control of Welsh Officers, posted at the north west corner of the Wood and in telephone communication with the Brigade Headquarters.
2nd May 1915 3rd Monmouths under Bombardment On the 2nd May the 83 rd Brigade (29th Division) area was very heavily shelled by the Germans that many of the troops believed it impossible to get any worse. There were of course inevitable casualties after trenches and dugouts were hit. Sergeant A. Davies (3rd Monmouths) writing home to friends gave the following details of the days bombardment: "Our worst time started on May 2nd , when they gave it to us a bit hot. It was on that day that L/Cpls Reg Rumsey and Taylor got buried by a shell bursting on top of their dugout. We managed to get them out after a bit of a struggle, and I think Rumsey acted splendidly. If it had not been for him Taylor would have been dead. After getting his head and arms clear he would not think of anything else but getting Taylor out; in fact he set to at releasing him, and it was rather a good job, for when we got Taylor out he was at his last gasp"
3rd May 1915 3rd Monmouths at Potizje The 3rd Mons evacuated Polygon Wood on the night of May 2nd/3rd and reformed on the new GHQ line at Potizje. A Company under Captain Baker, C Company under Captain Steel, B Company under Captain Gattie was stationed in the front line while D Company under Major Lewis stayed in reserve at Potizje. The evacuation of Polygon Wood and the occupation of the new front line was completed during the night of 3rd of May and the success of the movement was proved when at 5 am the following morning the enemy still fired onto the empty trenches. Then the Officers controlling the operation left and declared that in spite of a very laborious task the evacuation had been a complete success. Once here the troops had very little to do, the weather was foul, there was very little to eat and heavy shells were flying overhead into the city of Ypres.
4th May 1915 Tough fight on Frezenberg Ridge The evening of May 4 th saw the beginning of the battalion's hardest trial and greatest achievement. The strain and stress was all over within a week, but during that period the 3rd Monmouth's were involved in some of the hardest fighting of the war. Suffering heavy casualties and though outnumbered by the enemy and without adequate artillery support held up the German attack at a crucial point of the line.
On this evening A company (Captain Baker) and C Company (Captain Steel) moved up into support trenches and dug-outs north of the road at the western foot of the Frezenberg Ridge. B Company (Captain Gattie) went up to reinforce the 1st York and Lancs in the front line on the right of the Brigade; and D Company (Major Lewis) remained in reserve at Potizje. The new front line, which had been hastily and poorly constructed, suffered severely from the bombardment. So bad did conditions become that both the 2nd East Yorks and the 5th KOYLI were compelled that night to dig a new line just behind the original one. Casualties had been heavy and the wounded were removed with great difficulty during the night, whilst the dead had to be buried where they fell.
5th May 1915 Hard Fighting May 5th opened with a still more severe bombardment and the front line troops were reported as being in a very exhausted condition. Early in the morning C Company was called upon to reinforce the 2nd East Yorks on the south of the road. Captain Steel led half of C Company up to reinforce the front line. As they topped the ridge they were caught by German machine gun fire and suffered terrible casualties. Captain Steel was a doctor in civilian life and he set about attending the wounded as well as leading the advance. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross. One of the men in his company, Private AM Mitchell, wrote home: "Words utterly fail me to say what a hero Captain O.W.D. Steel was during that fearful struggle. From every person I meet they tell me the same tale. Under heavy shell and maxim fire he went out and fetched in wounded, bandaging them and if he doesn't deserve the VC no man on earth ought to get it." An hour later A company (under Captain R.A. Lewis) also tried to reinforce the front line and again suffered terrible casualties. Private I. Skidmore was awarded the DCM for attending to the casualties until he was so badly wounded himself that he could not carry on.
6th May 1915 Shelling on Frezenberg Ridge On May 6th, there was shelling, but less severe than on the 5th, and no attempt at an attack by the enemy.
7th May 1915 Heavier Bombardment on Frezenberg Ridge May 7 th opened with a heavier bombardment, which caused many casualties. There was nothing but the 27th and 28th Divisions between the enemy and Ypres but the British soldier proverbially does not know when he is beaten.
8th May 1915 Heavy Fighting in Ypres Salient On the morning of 8th May, the 3rd Monmouths had three companies in the front line and one in support. Half a mile to the north the 1st Monmouth's were fighting with the 83rd Brigade. The German bombardment began at 5.30 am followed by the first infantry attack at 8.30. In the words of Pte W.H. Badham: "They started bombarding at the same time in the morning and….afterwards we could hear a long blast of a whistle, and the attack started. We were only a handful of men, and they came on in thousands, but we kept them at bay"
Private A.L. Devereux carried this story forward in a letter he wrote to his family a day or two after the battle: "Hundreds of them were put of action with shells and it left very few men to man the trenches. After, the Huns shelled all the country for a couple of miles…stoping any reinforcements from being brought up and thousands of the rabble charged our trenches in their favourite massed formation. The few boys that were left in our trenches showed then the kind of stuff Britain can turn out and thousands of the Germans were put out of action"
Almost immediately, the shelling started again and at 09.00am the Germans attacked again and were again driven back. The Germans realised that their attack was making no progress, and they fell back so that the artillery could return to its task on the front line trenches. By 9.10 am the bombardment was as intense as at any time that morning and there was little that the soldiers could do except find what little cover they could.
Orders reached the 3rd Monmouth's and 2nd King's Own from Brigade HQ about 10am to evacuate the front line trenches. Captain Baker began withdrawing his Company, but immediately the enemy opened up an intense machine gun fire, followed by shrapnel, which practically swept away the few survivors of A and D Companies. Captain Baker was killed a few yards behind the front line. The order apparently never reached Lt Reed and he and few men of A Company, with some machine gunners held on gallantly and resisted to the last. Lt Reed was finally killed and no officer of A Company was left, and only 13 survivors amongst the men could be mustered. D Company stuck it gallantly. They lost their only officer Captain J Lancaster. Every Sergeant in the company was killed and only 16 men answered the roll call next morning. Of the 500 men in A and D Companies only 29 were left. B Company (under Captain Gattie) throughout the battle was separated from the rest of the Battalion. They were in the front line in a wood near Red Lodge. Rations and letters came up regularly and one fortunate officer even received a tin of cooked sausages! What the war diary does not record is that the new trenches had been hastily prepared and it was not as deep or as wide as had been hoped for by those men retiring to it. One member of the 3rd Monmouths noted: "….when we occupied this new line of trenches we found them very badly made and up to our knees in water, and the poor men had no chance of getting any sleep unless they wished to i.e. down in the water".
So dawned the most critical day of the great battle, the 8th May, The 3rd Monmouth's lay astride the Zonnebeke road, the apex of the Salient, two companies in the front line with one in support and the fourth company not far away to the south. Half a mile to the north was their sister battalion the 1st Monmouthshire's in the 84th Brigade. Holding the position with them were their comrades of the 83rd Brigade, the nd Kings Own to the north and to the south the 1st KOYLI who relieved the 1st York and Lancs and B Coy. 3rd Monmouth's on the night of the 7th May. The Brigade had been in the line without relief since April 17th . Its numbers were greatly reduced, and the artillery behind were few in numbers and woefully short of ammunition. As indicating the desperate position of the British troops in respect to artillery support, it is now authoritatively stated that the heavy British guns during this period of the 2nd Battle of Ypres were limited to:- One 9.2 inch howitzer, Eight 60 pdrs, Four old six inch howitzers, Twelve obsolete 4.7 inch guns.
Against them the Germans brought up at least 260 heavy guns and howitzers. There was nothing except the Division between the enemy and Ypres on that day and they got as far as Verlorenhoek, but the British soldier proverbially does not know when he is beaten and the Germans were kept back somehow till fresh troops were brought up in the evening to fill the many gaps. The enemy on their side were all out to push through. They had guns on the high ground enfilading the British position and smothering our artillery, they had field guns well forward, and they had innumerable machine guns, and six divisions of their best and freshest troops, against the depleted ranks of the war-worn and weary 27 th and 28 th Divisions. Their bombardment opened up at 5.30.a.m. and the trenches lying on the forward slope were badly damaged and almost untenable.
The wood came under heavy shelling and Lt Groves and Lt Palmer were killed by a direct hit on their dug out. After two German attacks on the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the front trenches, B Company charged across open ground to reinforce them. A dip in the ground favoured the advance and casualties were few, but Capt. Gardner was shot through the heart as he entered the trench, a great loss. He was one of the finest looking and best soldiers in the Battalion. 2/Lt. Paul was wounded at about the same time.
The first enemy infantry attack took place at 8.30.a.m. and was driven off. The bombardment re-opened and at 9.a.m. the enemy again attacked and were driven back. After a further hours intense shelling the front line was practically obliterated and the enemy found few survivors to hold up the attack. In A Coy 3rd Monmouths, Capt Baker and C.S.M. were killed and Lt Reed with a few survivors of his company held gallantly on and resisted to the last. This party and the machine gun section took heavy toll of the advancing enemy, but were finally overwhelmed by numbers. Lt. Reed was killed and no officer of A Coy was left and only 13 survivors amongst the men could be mustered. D Coy stuck it gallantly. They lost their only officer, Captain James Lancaster, beloved of all who knew him, and that fine type of Territorial soldier C.S.M. Lippiatt, who did such wonderful work training recruits almost single-handed at Abergavenny in August and September 1914. Every Sergeant in the company was killed and only 16 men answered the roll next morning. The machine-gun section were involved in this slaughter, and had one gun destroyed but one of the few survivors brought back the lock of the other.
Early in the day C Coy came into action in support, but little by little was forced back to Battalion HQ owing to the exposure of their flank from the north. Stragglers were coming down the road, so Col. Gough ordered Sergeant Jenkins to collect them in a trench in the rear, and for his fine services on this occasion coupled with the good work on the telephone; this old soldier received the DCM. This party and other remnants of the Battalion was led by Col. Gough in counter attack, but could only advance as far as the eastern edge of Frezenberg. In this advance R.S.M. Hatton was seriously wounded. He had accompanied the adjutant Capt. Ramsden, in many visits to the front line during the last terrible days and with him had often helped to stiffen the defence by cheery encouragement. He now refused to be carried back and was taken prisoner. His wounds were of such a nature that he was one of the first prisoners of war to be exchanged, but unhappily he died much regretted before the end of the war. He was a fine type of regular soldier from whom all ranks learnt much. After hanging onto this position for some time and holding up the advance, orders came at about 11.a.m. from the Brigade to retire on the GHQ line near Potijze.
Lt. McLean, M.O., 3rd Monmouth's and Lt.Marriott, M.O., 1st Monmouth's had established a dressing station just east of Verlorenhoek; at 11.a.m. they received orders to retire their detachments, but after sending back the stretcher bearers they found a number of wounded still coming back and so decided to carry on, till the enemy were practically in the village and Lt. McLean was wounded.
Just before mid-day the 2nd East Yorks were ordered to counter attack and after reaching Verlorenhoek with heavy casualties had to fall back on the G.H.Q. line. At 2.30.p.m. 1st York and Lancaster and 3rd Middlesex counter-attacked north and south of the railway, remnants of the 2nd East Yorks, 1st KOYLI, 2nd Kings Own, 3rd Monmouth's, 5th Kings Own going up into support. At 3.30.p.m. 2nd East Surreys , 3rd Royal Fusiliers arrived and were sent up in support. The counter attack, practically unsupported by artillery, made slow progress and by 5.30.p.m. was held up at a line running from Verlorenhoek south over the railway. This line was consolidated with fresh troops during the night and eventually became the approximate position of the front line until the British advance in 1917.
In the meantime the 3rd Monmouth Battalion with the exception of B Coy was withdrawn and marched back to huts at Vlamertinghe. B Coy throughout the battle was separated from the rest of the battalion. It reinforced 1st York and Lancs, coming under orders of the CO of that Battalion, and took over a trench on the extreme right of the Brigade and Division from a company of K.R.R.C. 27 th Division. The next unit on the right was the “Princess Pats”. The position was in front of the wood near Red Lodge, about 300 yards south of the Roulers railway. The trench was newly dug like the rest of the line and not deep. It was also on a forward slope and the only communication trench was full of mud and impassable. Further, it lay along a lane with a hedge on one side and a line of poplars on the other, so that it was an admirable mark for the enemy's artillery observing on Westhoek Ridge. On May 5 th and in a smaller degree on May 6 th and 7 th the enemy bombarded the trench, but it was so narrow and well traversed that the damage was comparatively slight and casualties not as heavy as might be expected from such a bombardment. Sgt. Nash, a Territorial with much service, was killed on the 6th .
The attack in front was beaten off and the afternoon in the immediate neighbourhood proved quiet, but there was a great danger of the company being surrounded.. The P.P.C.L.I on the right were forced back to their support trench and on the left to the north of the wood there was a large gap and both flanks were more or less in the air. Accordingly Capt. Gattie went to the HQ of the Rifle Brigade, near Bellewaarde Lake, for reinforcements to protect the exposed flanks, especially to the north, and was able to guide them as far as the P.P.C.L.I. support trench, but machine gun fire prevented them from advancing further until dark. Meanwhile a party of the Monmouth's and KOYLI were in fact in advance of all other British troops with both flanks exposed. Towards the evening the bullets of our troops counter-attacking up the railway were beginning to take them in the rear, so that it was clearly impossible to hold on.
The party was now completely cut off from its own HQ, so Capt. Gattie proceeded to Brigade HQ for orders, leaving the remains of B Company under 2/Lt. Somerset. Under cover of darkness the men of both units filed out of the right end of the trench and were sorted out, and the men in the wood were ordered to re-join. This party had received no orders to advance in the morning and had been left behind. The senior soldier, Cpl. Sketchley, had kept them together during the day and now led 30 men out to join the Company. The enemy attack up the railway on his left had come so near that his party had taken a prisoner and they now brought him with them. Cpl. Sketchley received the D.C.M. for his great initiative and pluck at this period. Capt. Mallinson was awarded the D.S.O., for his fine leadership in maintaining this position and finally in extracting his party from a very difficult position. The enemy did not attempt to harass the withdrawal and the whole mixed party got safely back to Rifle Brigade HQ. After a halt there they proceeded across the railway to the Potijze road intending to rejoin the Brigade at Vlamertinghe.
9th May 1915 Heavy Fighting in Ypres Salient At the GHQ line a Staff Officer ordered the party from the 3rd Monmouths to the trenches again, so just as dawn was breaking on the 9th they turned off the road, near the trench occupied on May 4th and advanced across open fields to the front line. There was only room on their immediate front for the KOYLI so the Monmouthshire party occupied some little dugouts a hundred yards in rear. Here the remains of B Coy spent the day, among them two N.C.O.s who later in the war made the supreme sacrifice, Sgt. Lewis and Sgt. T.Howells, that fine old soldier who won the D.C.M. in the South African War and a bar to it in the Great War. Sgt. Owen of C Coy joined the party during the day, also two men, who were shelled out of buildings on the left. The enemy paid no attention to B Coy., probably did not know of their existence, but fired heavy stuff overhead into YPRES all day. It was a day of inaction that tried the nerves far more than a day of hard fighting. Luckily it was not a day of starvation too, for early in the morning some foragers found a broken down water-cart and bread and tinned honey dumped in the road.
The casualties had been enormous and the Brigade diary records these as being 128 Officers and 4379 men killed, wounded and missing.
9th May 1915 Hard fighting on Frezenberg Ridge Under cover of darkness, the remnants of B Coy 3rd Monmouths began to withdraw to rejoin the rest of the battalion. Just as they got back to the GHQ line at dawn on May 9th a staff officer ordered them back into the front line.
10th May 1915 3rd Monmouths withdrawn from line B Coy 3rd Monmouths were finally withdrawn on the morning of May 10th and marched back to Vlamertinghe where they rejoined what was left of the rest of the battalion.
11th May 1915 3rd Monmouths in the front line On May 11th , the 3rd Mons briefly moved back to the front line where the commanding officer Lt Col Gough was wounded. Major Bridge took command and the battalion moved out of the line to bivouacs at Poperinghe. Here they found piles of parcels from home, which it had not been possible to deliver during the battle – most of them were addressed, to men who could no longer receive them.
11th May 1915 3rd Monmouths at Frezenberg On May 11th, the 3rd Mons briefly moved back to the front line where the commanding officer Lt Col Gough was wounded. Major Bridge took command and the battalion moved out of the line to bivouacs at Poperinghe. Here they found piles of parcels from home, which it had not been possible to deliver during the battle, most of them were addressed, to men who could no longer receive them. Edmonds in the Official History of the Great War describes the action of B Company 3rd Monmouth'ss and D Company 1st KOYLI in holding the frontline at Frezenberg as one of the greatest feat of arms of the whole war. Casualties between April 22 nd - May 8 th had been horrendous. Of the 1020 soldiers of the 3rd Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment who had arrived in France in February 1915 only 134 were left alive on the morning of May 10th. Stragglers reported over the next few days and the strength rose to about 250 in total. On May 14th , what was left of the battalion was moved to the village of Winnezeele in France for a period of rest and reorganisation.
14th May 1915 3rd Monmouths on the move What was left of the 3rd battalion Monmouthshire Regiment was moved to the village of Winnezeele in France for a period of rest and reorganisation.
14th May 1915 7th Northumberlands into Trenches
16th May 1915 7th Northumberlands Relieved
21st May 1915 3rd Monmouths rest at Winnezeele On the 21st May during the 3rd Monmouth battalions rest period at Winnezeele the GOC in C Sir John French, inspected the brigade and made the following speech, with which this chapter on the 3rd Monmouth's time in Ypres may fittingly close.
“I came over to say a few words to you and to tell you how much I, as Commander-in-Chief of this Army, appreciate the splendid work that you have all done during the recent fighting. You have fought the Second Battle of Ypres , which will rank amongst the most desperate and hardest fights of the war. You may have thought because you were not attacking the enemy, that you were not helping to shorten the War. On the contrary, by your splendid endurance and bravery you have done a great deal to shorten it. In this the Second Battle of Ypres , the Germans tried by every means in their power to get possession of that unfortunate town. They concentrated large forces of troops and artillery, and further than this, they had recourse to the mean and dastardly practice, and hitherto unheard of in civilised warfare, namely the use of asphyxiating gases. You have performed the most difficult, arduous, and terrific task of withstanding a stupendous bombardment by heavy artillery, probably the fiercest artillery fire ever directed against troops, and warded off the enemy's attacks with magnificent bravery. By your steadiness and devotion both the German plans were frustrated. He was unable to get possession of Ypres-if he had done this, he would probably have succeeded in preventing neutral powers from intervening-and he was also unable to distract us from delivering our attack in conjunction with the French in the Arras-Armentieres district. Had you failed to repulse his attacks and made it necessary for more troops to be sent to your assistance, our operations in the south might not have been able to take place and would certainly not have been as successful as they have been. Your colours have many famous names emblazoned on them, but none will be more famous or more well deserved than that of the Second Battle of Ypres . I want you one and all to understand how thoroughly I realise and appreciate what you have done. I with to thank you, each officer, non-commissioned officer, and man for the services you have rendered by doing your duty so magnificently, and I am sure that your Country will thank you too”.
To act as a counterweight to the grandeur of French's speech the content of the following letter should be Ypres on the troops concerned. Captain O.W.D. Steel, then commanding C Company, 3rd Monmouths, who had suffered so badly during the fighting on Frezenberg Ridge, wrote the letter, published on 21st May 1915. It runs: "I would be obliged if you would insert this short note in the next edition of your newspaper. It is almost impossible to write to the relative of every man of my company who have suffered, partly because the losses have been so severe, and partly because it is difficult to trace all cases, but if anyone would care to write to me, I will endeavour to supply all available information. May I express my deepest sympathy with all those who have suffered" .
This was the human effect of the war and of the Second Battle of Ypres and it was something that was to be felt well into the summer of 1915 as casualty lists continued to be published. Second Ypres had been a costly and grim battle for all those involved.
22nd May 1915 The Amalgamated Monmouthshire Battalions After the heavy casualties of the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the three Monmouthshire Battalions barely mustered the strength of one Battalion; on May 22nd orders were received for the remains of the three battalions to amalgamate under the command of Major WS Bridge.
23rd May 1915 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Mons left Winnezeele and joined the 1st Mons that night in bivouacs in the Vlamertinghe Woods.
24th May 1915 Germans attack Ypres On 24th May the Germans launched a fresh bombardment and infantry attack on Ypres and the Monmouths again found themselves in the front line, this time at the infamous "Hellfire Corner". This marked the last serious attempt of the enemy to push through in the 2nd Battle of Ypres. At about 8 p.m. a Highland Battalion relieved the Monmouthshire's.
27th May 1915 2nd Monmouths amalganate The 2nd Monmouth's joined the amalgamated Battalion on May 27th and the official amalgamation of the battalions took place on May 28th. Also the amalgamated battalions moved to Herzeele where the Brigadier (General Bols) who stated that the three battalions would be eventually reformed addressed them. It is interesting to note the strength of the three units on July 24th , when they were still far below strength:- 1st Battalion: 7 Officers 193 Other ranks, 2nd Battalion: 12 Officers 476 Other ranks, 3rd Battalion: 8 Officers 273 Other ranks.
28th May 1915 Monmouths Amalgamate The 2nd Monmouth's joined the 1st and 3rd Battalions on May 27th and the official amalgamation of the battalions took place on May 28th. The amalgamated battalions moved to Herzeele where the Brigadier, General Bols, addressed them and stated that the three battalions would be eventually reformed.
29th May 1915 Monmouthshires re-equip The period from May 29th to June 10th was busily spent in organising and re-equipping. It was in this period that the first real protection against gas was issued and considerable time was given to training in the use of the new gas helmet. A party from the Monmouth's had taken part in the initial tests which, owing to the shortage of gas, were carried out inside a motor omnibus. Since the surprise use of gas various temporary solutions had been adopted to help protect the troops against the effects. These new gas helmets, quickly produced, were remarkably simple and effective under the circumstances. They remained in service for about 9 months when new forms of protection were required due to the introduction of other forms of gas as a weapon of war.
It is interesting to note the strength of the three units forming the amalgamated Battalion was still far below strength: 1st Battalion 7 Officers 193 Other ranks; 2nd Battalion 12 Officers 476 Other ranks; 3rd Battalion 8 Officers 273 Other ranks
11th Jun 1915 Monmouths on the march On June 11th the Monmouthshire's were on the move. 30 Officers and 999 other ranks marched south with the brigade to Reninghelst and bivouacked for the night in a wood on the Rozenhilbeek Brook.
12th Jun 1915 Monmouths return to front line On the night of June 12 th they were back in the front line trenches taking them over from the 7th KRR 14th Division. On the whole this part of the line was not unpleasant but not free from casualties. Before the Monmouth's were relieved they had lost 7 killed and 32 wounded. The Monmouth's had two more tours in the front before leaving the area, thankfully the causalities for these periods was lighter with only 2 killed and 8 wounded.
5th Jul 1915 Monmouth Battalions to reform On July 5th the first steps were taken to reform the three battalions. This lead to the 2nd Monmouth's being detached away on July 24 th and subsequently the final partition between 1st and 3rd Monmouth's on August 11th. The 3rd Monmouth's were reattached to the 83rd Brigade and reorganised into four Companies under Lt JM Jones, Captain HG Tyler, Lt LD Whitehead and Lt HA Hodges.
24th Jul 1915 2nd Monmouths detached The 2nd Monmouths were detached from the amalgamated battalions of the Monmouhs, the first to reform as an independent unit.
11th Aug 1915 1st and 3rd Monmouths reform The 1st and 2nd Monmouths separated from the amalgamated battalion to be independent units once more. The 3rd Monmouth's were reattached to the 83rd Brigade and reorganised into four Companies under Lt J.M. Jones, Captain H.G. Tyler, Lt L.D. Whitehead and Lt H.A. Hodges.
22nd Aug 1915 3rd Monmouths return to front line The 3rd Monmouths returned to the front line at Kemmel for six days.
01 Sep 1915 3rd Monmouth on the Yser Canal During 1915, it had become very clear that the digging of fire trenches and communication trenches and the construction of light railways and bridges required specialist skills and knowledge and that there was a need for specialised units to do this work who were also fully trained infantrymen. It was soon recognised that units raised in mining areas had all the necessary experience and skill to fulfil this role and so the idea of the Pioneer Battalions took shape. All three battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment become the pioneer battalions for their respective divisions.
At the beginning of September 1915 the 3rd Mons were sent to the Yser canal front just north of Ypres. Here they set up their battalion headquarters in Elverdinghe Chateau, which stood among a largely undamaged forest of “splendid oaks”. The canal and the front line were below sea level in this are and flooding and mud was a constant problem. The battalion set about the construction of a series of drainage ditches to ease the problem.
2nd Sep 1915 3rd Monmouths join 49th Division Orders were received on September 22nd for the 3rd Monmouth's to join the 49th Division as one of the Pioneer Battalions. General Bulfin on his farewell address spoke as follows: "I wish to say I am exceedingly sorry to lose you from the Division and would wish to thank you individually, one and all, for the help you have always given me whilst in the Division. At the beginning you had a very rough and unhappy time of it, but you came through it splendidly and have done excellent work. Your Colonel and all of you will look back one day with pride on the fine reputation, which the Regiment has made for itself during the time it has served with the 28 th Division. I wish you all the best of luck and a safe return to England at the end of the war, and I feel sure you will continue to make the history which you have begun for your Regiment"
During 1915, it had become very clear that the digging of fire trenches and communication trenches and the construction of light railways and bridges required specialist skills and knowledge and that there was a need for specialised units to do this work who were also fully trained infantrymen. It was soon recognised that units raised in mining areas had all the necessary experience and skill to fulfil this role and so the idea of the Pioneer Battalions took shape. All three battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment become the pioneer battalions for their respective divisions.
03 Sep 1915 3rd Monmouths on the move The 3rd Monmouths were sent to the Yser canal front just north of Ypres. Here they set up their battalion headquarters in Elverdinghe Chateau, which stood among a largely undamaged forest of splendid oaks. The canal and the front line were below sea level in this are and flooding and mud was a constant problem. The battalion set about the construction of a series of drainage ditches to ease the problem.
21st Sep 1915 3rd Monmouths suffer harsh conditions B and D companies of the 3rd Monmouths moved out from the chateau ground to Dunbarton Dug-outs on the west bank of the canal and started work. A and C companies remained at Elverdinghe and the two groups relieved each other every six days. Work was carried out at night and the conditions were terrible. The Germans occupied Pilckem Ridge to the each and the whole area was constantly shelled and swept by machine gun fire. To cross the canal soldiers had to use small temporary footbridges described by the battalion's historians as "very unhealthy as they were open to enfilading machine gun and shell fire from the German positions". A considerable amount of useful work was carried out on the main communication trenches; one of these was called Barnsley Road. There was a constant stream of casualties. Added to this, the ground was boggy; men often sank up to their waists in mud and had to spend weeks in wet clothing in the bitter cold without hot food.
22nd Sep 1915 3rd Monmouth join 49th Division Orders were received on September 22nd for the 3rd Monmouth's to join the 49 th Division as one of the Pioneer Battalions. General Bulfin on his farewell address spoke as follows: "I wish to say I am exceedingly sorry to lose you from the Division and would wish to thank you individually, one and all, for the help you have always given me whilst in the Division. At the beginning you had a very rough and unhappy time of it, but you came through it splendidly and have done excellent work. Your Colonel and all of you will look back one day with pride on the fine reputation, which the Regiment has made for itself during the time it has served with the 28th Division. I wish you all the best of luck and a safe return to England at the end of the war, and I feel sure you will continue to make the history which you have begun for your Regiment"
13th Oct 1915 Support Battalions Advance
19th Dec 1915 German Attack on the Yser Canal On Dec 19th the chateau and canal came under heavy shellfire followed closely by a gas attack. All four companies of teh 3rd Monmouths moved into the trenches to reinforce the front line against the expected German attack. The attack never came but the battalion was shelled all day and all the following night and had 40 men killed or wounded.
The battalion War Diary records the following entry for that day: - About 5.30 am, message received that enemy was making gas attack. The Elverdinghe detachment had orders to move to Canal Bank. At 8.30 am the Battalion was in position; the Canal Bank detachment manning the reserve fire trenches, the Elverdinghe detachment at Canal bank dugouts. One machine gun and team in emplacement on Elverdinghe-Boesinghe road, and another at Mill Mound in Elverdinghe. Enemy bombarded heavily all day and night. During the morning 8- 17”shells fell in the grounds of Elverdinghe Chateau, where the QM branch had been left.
The following message was received from 49th Division. “The divisional Commander is very pleased with the behaviour of all ranks, and the promptitude with which all necessary steps was taken this morning”
There follows a list of casualties suffered by the battalion that day. One name stands out, 1881 Pte Gibson, who was one of a number of men who were gassed. Ironically being gassed could have saved his life as on Dec 27th the battalion was taken out of the front line and received orders to leave the Yser canal.
25th Dec 1915 Handshakes, Gifts and Songs
27th Dec 1915 3rd Monmouths out of line On Dec 27th the 3rd battalion Monmouthshire Regiment was taken out of the front line and received orders to leave the Yser canal.
29th Dec 1915 3rd Monmouths suffer tragic losses At 2.30 p.m. on Dec 29th, the 3rd Monmouthshire battalion paraded in the grounds of Elverdinghe Chateau prior to moving out. As the men fell in, “an ominous sound was heard, like an oncoming railway train” and 17-inch shells began to burst among the ranks. In a few seconds 39 men were killed and 30 wounded. Among the dead were many of the men who had survived the slaughter of Ypres The dead were all buried in the adjoining cemetery of Ferme Olivier . It was a ghastly send off from the Salient, which they were not to see again as a Battalion.
3rd Feb 1916 3rd Monmouths entrain for The Somme For most of January 1916 the 49th Division was at rest before proceeding to the Somme, and the battalion after leaving Elverdinghe, marched by stages to Rietveld, a little hamlet on the Cassel-Wormhoudt Road where the companies were billeted in farms within easy walking distance of each other. The battalion historians record this time as “four pleasant weeks, the training was not strenuous, only sufficient being done to keep all ranks fit, and the afternoons were spent in games”.
On February 3rd the Battalion entrained at Esquelbecq for the south, and the next day detrained at Longueau near Amiens . A march to Ailly-su-Somme from which point they bussed to Saisseval, a small village about 14 kilometres to the west of Amiens.
4th Feb 1916 3rd Monmouths on the march The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment detrained at Longueau near Amiens and marched to Ailly-su-Somme from which point they bussed to Saisseval, a small village about 14 kilometres to the west of Amiens.
13th Feb 1916 3rd Monmouths go into the line at Albert After a few days spent in training the battalion moved on Feb 13th to the line just north of Albert, with the Battalion Headquarters at Bouzincourt. The various companies set about their new tasks. A company repairing roads near Bouzincourt, B Company building a light railway through Aveluy Wood across the Ancre marshes and on to Theipval Wood and C and D Companies working on “ Northumberland Avenue ” a new road running from Bouzincourt to Martinsart. Although the 49 th Division was relieved on March 5 th , the 3rd Mons were left to carry on their pioneer work in the “forward area”. They were split up to work on various engineering schemes throughout April and May. D Company began construction of new road from Forceville to Englebeimer, which become known as “ Monmouth Road ”. It was completed on June 20 th . By this time, tension was running high, as the opening for the Battle of the Somme had been set for the July 1st 1916.
5th Mar 1916 3rd Monmouths in forward area On the 5th of March the 49th Division was relieved but the 3rd Monmouths remained to carry on their pioneer work in the forward area. They were split up to work on various engineering schemes throughout April and May. D Company began construction of new road from Forceville to Englebeimer, which become known as Monmouth Road which was completed on the 20th of June. By this time, tension was running high, as the opening for the Battle of the Somme had been set for the 1st of July.
24th Jun 1916 3rd Monmouths rejoin 49th Division The companies of the 3rd Monmouths were re-united as a battalion and ordered to rejoin the 49th Division. They marched back to Bouzincourt and reached their destination at 2 o'clock on the morning.
1st Jul 1916 3rd Monmouths in support The 3rd Monmouths took part in the British attack of the 1st of July, in support of the 36th (Ulster) Division who were attacking the Schwaben Redoubt, a formidable Germany strongpoint, through Thiepval Wood.
3rd Jul 1916 3rd Monmouths return to pioneer duties The 3rd Monmouths returned to their pioneer duties and were engaged in digging the new British front line at the Schwaben Redoubt and Ancre. Here they came across the dead and wounded of the terrible fighting that had taken place over this ground. They also came under heavy shelling and German grenade attacks. The Ulster Memorial Tower now marks the site of these trenches.
6th Jul 1916 3rd Monmouths under attack A Company, 3rd Monmouths came under attack while digging trenches near the German lines captured by the 49th Division. The pioneers had to become infantrymen again and were ordered to hold the line until the next morning. 14 men were killed or wounded.
9th Jul 1916 3rd Monmouths hold the line A and D Companies of the 3rd Monmouths helped hold off another German attack and four men were awarded gallantry cards.
16th Jul 1916 3rd Monmouths under fire B Company of the 3rd Monmouths came under heavy shellfire while repairing an ammunition dump and lost 19 killed and wounded.
5th Aug1916 3rd Monmouths to be broken up On the 5th August after more than a month under battle conditions on the Somme, the 3rd Battalion Monmoutshire Regiment received the disheartening news that it was impossible to reinforce the three active service Battalions of the Regiment, in consequence the 3rd Battalion, being the junior Battalion, would be broken up to provide drafts for the other Battalions
8th Aug1916 3rd Monmouths withdrawn The 3rd Monmouth Battalion moved back to Forceville, where Major-General Perceval, GOC 49th Division, gave them a farewell speech.
9th Aug1916 3rd Monmouths entrain The 3rd Monmouth Battalion entrain at Acheux for Hesdin and go into billets at Capelle.
14th Aug1916 3rd Monmouths split 200 NCO's and men of the 3rd Monmouth Battalion left to join the 2nd Monmouthshire's
24th Aug1916 3rd Monmouths transferred 252 NCO's and men of the 3rd Monmouth Battalion left to join the 9th Entrenching Battalion. Of these 252 men 200 were transferred on the 20th of September from the 9th Entrenching Battalion into the 9th Welsh Regiment and the remainder into the 9th Welsh Fusiliers.
24th Jan 1917 Orders
27th Jan 1917 In Action
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Want to know more about Monmouthshire Regiment?
There are:22585 pages and articles tagged Monmouthshire Regiment available in our Library
Those known to have served with
during the Great War 1914-1918.
- Amyes Basil John. Pte. 3rd (d.11th May 1915)
- Boughey Thomas. Pte. 3rd Battalion (d.11th May 1915)
- Bowes James B.. Pte. 3rd Btn.
- Bowley Herbert. Cpl. 3rd Batallion (d.3rd May 1915)
- Cruickshank Raymond Alfred. 2nd Lt. 2nd Btn. (d.23rd Apr 1917)
- Cruickshank Raymond Alfred. 2nd Lt. 2nd Battalion (d.23rd Apr 1917)
- Davies Richard Llewellyn. Cpl. D Coy. 9th Service Btn.
- Davies Richard Llewellyn. Cpl. 9th Btn.
- Davies Richard Llewellyn. Cpl. 9th Btn.
- Denford Henry. 3rd Btn
- Denford John Thomas. L/Cpl. 3rd Btn (d.29th Dec 1915)
- Denford Thomas George. Pte. 3rd Btn.
- Dunwoody Samuel. 2nd Lt. 16th (Service) Battalion (d.5th Oct 1918)
- Foxhall Reginald. Pte. 12th Btn. (d.28th June 1918)
- Fryer William Francis. Pte. 1st Btn.
- Gregory William Edward. Pte. 3rd Btn.
- Griffiths Thomas Henry. L/Cpl. 1st Btn. (d.8th May 1915)
- Hall Samuel Joseph. Pte 3rd Btn
- Herbert Frank Harold. Rfmn. 1st Btn.
- Hollingsworth Frank. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.9th Aug 1917 )
- James Thomas Francis. Pte. att. 258 Tunn. RE
- Jasper Henry Lesie. Pte.
- Jasper Henry Leslie. Pte.
- Jones Henry. Pte. 1st Btn
- Lake Isaac. Rfmn. 1st Btn. (d.12th Sep 1918)
- Leinthall William Charles. Pte. 2nd Btn (d.18th Aug 1917)
- Lowe Albert Edward. Pte 2nd Btn. (d.12th April 1918)
- Matthews Edgar Walter. Pte. 2nd Btn. (d.12th Apr 1918)
- Payne Edward William. L/Sgt. 2nd Battalion (d.3rd Dec 1917)
- Pope James. Cpl. 3rd (Reserve) Btn.
- Pritchard Reginald. Pte. 3rd Btn. (d.2nd May 1915)
- Taylor Francis Cyril. Rflmn. 1st Btn. (d.8th May 1915)
- Wall George. Cpl. 1st Btn. (d.28th April 1915)
- Warman Francis. Pte. 1st Btn. (d.8th May 1915)
- Williams Reginald John. Rifleman 1st Batallian (d.8th Oct 1918)
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Pte. William Charles "Frank" Leinthall 2nd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment (d.18th Aug 1917)William Leinthall joined the 3rd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment (Territorial Force) on 2nd September 1914. In 1915 he was posted to the 2nd Btn. He served France from 13 Feb 1915 to 1st Jul 1915, 29 Sep 1915 to 30 Oct 1915 and 15 Aug 1916 to 18 Aug 1917. He was wounded in action on 22nd April 1915. William was killed in action, undoubtedly, at the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Paschendale). His mother was Annie Leinthall of 39 Chapel Road, Abergavenny.Paul Leinthall-Cowman
Cpl. George Wall 1st Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.28th April 1915)George Wall died on the 28th of April 1915, aged 39. Buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension in France, he was the husband of M. E. Williams (formerly Wall), of 95 Lower Rd., Cwmsyfiog, New Tredegar, Mon.s flynn
Pte. Edgar Walter Matthews 2nd Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.12th Apr 1918)I only know a small amount about Edgar Walter Matthews. I am researching my family history, if you know any more I would be grateful to know.Darren Matthews
Cpl. James Pope 3rd (Reserve) Btn. Monmouthshire RegimentJames Pope served with the Monmouthshire Regiment.Nigel
Pte. Reginald Foxhall 12th Btn. Gloucestershire Regiment (d.28th June 1918)Reginald Foxhall was from Crofts Street in Cardiff and was employed by the Great Western Railway goods department. He originally enlisted in 1917, joining the Monmouthshire Regiment. At some stage he was drafted into the 12th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, serving with them in Italy and France before being killed in June 1918. His name is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing in Belgium.Daniel Richards
Rfmn. Isaac Lake 1st Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.12th Sep 1918)Isaac Lake was the son of Horatio Nelson Lake and Margaret Catherine Lake of Wesley Place, Denbigh.Richard Roberts
Pte. Thomas Francis "Taff" James att. 258 Tunn. RE Monmouthshire RegimentMy grandfather Thomas James served during the first war with the Monmouthshire Regiment and his role, so I am led to believe, was that of a tunneller, infantryman and quite possibly member of a three man machine gun team.
He suffered from the after effects of gas attacks but died in the early forties by drowning after a bout of coughing which caused him to slip into a feeder pond. He was a well known character in Nantyglo and was a ringleader in a resistance type movement which was set up to resist a local government action concerning the residents of a certain area within his hometown.
I have a few pictures taken of him in uniform and I have one that is of particular interest to me, and possibly others, as it shows him and two of his mates outside a farm somewhere in the theatre of war. They are seated on chairs, presumably taken from the farm building to their rear. If anyone recognises the soldiers I would love to learn of their records and possible family members still alive. I am an active member of a forces charity and along with my wife and colleagues I visit the places where my grandfather served. I am fortunate because he kept a record in a series of handwritten exercise books. I also served for six years in the regiment that was formed out of my grandfather's regiment.Terry Gravenor
Pte. Henry Leslie "Ted." Jasper Royal Welsh FusiliersMy father Henry Jasper was born in 1899, he was a Lewis gunner and served first with The Monmouthshire Regiment (service number 60951) and later with The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (service number 90473). He was gassed with mustard gas and went to hospital in Aberdeen after which he went to Ireland. This is all I know about his war service.Xarifa Cooper
Pte. William Edward Gregory 3rd Btn. Monmouthshire RegimentWilliam Gregory was with the 3rd Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment. He was gassed at the 2nd battle of Ypres, shipped back to the UK and returned to his unit in France about two months later. He was wounded with shrapnel in his ankle and shipped back to the UK in December 1917 and to hospital in Glasgow. When released from hospital on 24th January 1918 he was no longer fit for active duty and was posted to a Protection Battalion in the UK. He was finally demobbed in March 1919.
He died in 1923 from the effects of the gas on his lungs and heart at Ypres. His wife was granted a full military pension. They had eight children.David Gregory White
Pte. Francis Warman 1st Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.8th May 1915)Frank Warman was my husband's great-uncle. He enlisted at Chepstow and was sent to France with the 1st Monmouthshire Regiment on 13th of February 1915. He was killed in the intense fighting on 8th of May 1915 near Ypres aged 18 years. His little sister, Joyce, remembered the day the telegram came to her parents to say he was missing. Her mother was greatly distressed and could not be calmed down. Frank's body was never found and his name is on the Menin Gate in Ypres.Enid Jarvis
L/Cpl. Thomas Henry Griffiths 1st Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.8th May 1915)Thomas Griffiths served with the 1st Battalion, Monmouthshire RegimentPaul White
Rflmn. Francis Cyril Taylor 1st Btn. Monmouthshire Regiment (d.8th May 1915)Immediately following the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914, Francis Taylor volunteered for the Army. Although, at age 17, he was legally too young, he was not truthful about his age and since he was over 6 feet tall at the time had little trouble convincing the recruiting officer. He was aided in this deception by his mother who had accompanied him to the recruiting station and supported his statement of age, an act which she regretted for the rest of her life.
He joined the 1st Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ in Stow Hill, Newport. They proceeded to France on the 13th of February to join 84th Brigade in 28th Division. Both the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment landed at Le Havre on 14 February 1915.
In mid-March 1915 the battalion was sent into the front line near Ypres.
When the warring armies dug in during the winter of 1914-1915, the Allied lines developed a large bulge around the Belgian town of Ypres. This was the infamous "Ypres Salient" and the lay of the land meant that the British forces in this area were surrounded on three sides by the opposing German armies. On 22nd April the Germans opened a furious artillery bombardment at 5pm followed by the release of Chlorine gas.
Unprotected against gas, French troops fled in panic, creating a major breach in the Franco-British lines. Rushing forward to close the gap, The 1st Canadian Division overcame the immediate crisis. However, German attacks continued and by 1st May British troops began to withdraw to a new defensive line closer to Ypres itself.
The opening of an intense German artillery bombardment on 4th May marked the beginning of another stage in the battle, causing heavy casualties amongst the troops defending the Frezenberg Ridge, and on 6th May the 1st Monmouths received orders to move up to the front line. Reaching the front line on 7th May in darkness they took over badly damaged trenches and began a desperate attempt to make repairs before dawn
On 8th May, with the 2nd Battalion to the north and the 3rd Battalion to the south, all three battalions of the Monmouths were in the line as dawn broke. The British defenders were massively outnumbered, both in terms of infantry and artillery. Intense German artillery fire was followed by powerful infantry attacks and in the centre of the defensive ring around Ypres the order was given to retire. As British troops pulled back, a gap opened up in the line. It now fell to those units to the north, including the 1st Monmouths, to face German attacks from both their front and from their flank.
Finding themselves in the middle of a storm of shellfire and machine gun fire, the Monmouths lost contact with both their artillery and headquarters. As the scant British artillery support faded, officers of the battalion HQ moved forward to direct the desperate defence. The adjutant, Captain Dimsdale, was killed in an attempt to lead a counter attack, as was the second in command, Major Williams. The Monmouths were now in danger of being overwhelmed and an attempt to provide reinforcements failed as those sent forward were decimated by shellfire.
The situation was critical as the Monmouths attempted to hold off attacks from their front and deal with Germans who had taken over the trenches to their right. Captain Edwards attempted to organise a flank using a communication trench, but was soon almost surrounded. Called on to surrender and uttering the phrase which became part of regimental history, "surrender be damned," he was last seen firing his revolver at his attackers, a scene commemorated in the painting in the entrance of Newport Civic Centre.
The battalion commander, Colonel Robinson, now gave the order for the Monmouths to be pulled back from the front line to form a flank against the German attacks from the right, after which he too was shot through the neck and killed. It was now the afternoon and the situation was clearly hopeless.
With no alternative before them other than annihilation, the remaining isolated groups of the Monmouths pulled back to their support trenches. From these reserve trenches The Monmouths and the Royal Irish Rifles were able to hold off further German advances. With this, the involvement of the 1st Monmouths in the Second Battle of Ypres came to an end and the remains of the battalion were withdrawn to Brielan the following day. Here the extent of the casualties suffered became clear: of the 23 officers and 565 other ranks who had left Brielen on 7th May, 3 officers and 126 other ranks returned.
Cyril Taylor died during this battle. His body was never identified. Along with over 54,000 other British and Commonwealth officers and men who died at Ypres and who have no known graves he is memorialized on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.Brian Morris
Cpl. Richard Llewellyn Davies 9th Btn. Welsh FusiliersDick Davies served firstly in the Monmouthshire Regiment and transferred to 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Sept 1916 on the Ancre. He fought in all future major battles with 9th Bn, see his book 'Never so Innocent Again' Published again last year, with much detail of times, places and personalities regarding this fine fighting battalion.H Davies
Pte. Frank Hollingsworth 1st Btn. Monmouth Regiment (d.9th Aug 1917 )Frank Hollingsworth is a 4th cousin 2 times removed who I came across researching my late father's family history. Frank was born 3rd April 1897 in Owen Street, Tipton, Staffordshire. Baptized 23rd May 1897 at Saint Matthew's Church in Tipton. He never met his father Frank who died towards the end of 1896. His mother Marion Amelia nee Tomkys died just before his 8th birthday. He was counted in the 1911 census with his aunt, Maud Crowther, also born in Tipton, uncle John Crowther, a grocer's manager and cousins Edgar 11 & Dennis 4 at 38, Stafford Road, Oakengates, Shropshire.
Frank, a grocer's assistant enlisted on the 10th December 1915, aged 18 years 8 months and was posted to army reserve. Next of kin is given as his aunt Maud Crowther, at the address above in Shropshire. At his regular army medical on the 18th of April 1916 at Shrewsbury his height is given as 5' 1 1/4", weight 105 lbs, Chest 32 1/2" (2 1/2" expansion), physical development fair, 2 vaccination marks on left arm from infancy). He was mobilized on 13th October 1916, joining the British Expeditionary force the next day, and embarked from Southampton 10th June 1917, disembarking at Rouen 11th June 1917.
On the 30th June 1917 he was transferred to the 1st (T.F.) Monmouth Regiment & posted to the 10th South Wales Borderers. On the 7th of July 1917 he joined the battalion in the field. On 9th August 1917 age 20 Frank died of his wounds. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Westvleteren - Poperinge, Belgium.Gordon Thursfield
Pte. Thomas Boughey 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment (d.11th May 1915)Thomas Boughey was a territorial soldier and was called up in September 1914, he trained with the Monmouthshire Regiment at Pembroke and Cambridge before landing in France in February.
The 3rd Battalion Monmouthshires fought in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, in April and May 1915. After severe losses the remnants of the 3rd Battalion was withdrawn from the line on 10th May but was ordered back that the evening, Tom was killed in action the next day.Andrew Boughey
Pte. William Francis Fryer 1st Btn. Monmouthshire RegimentBill Fryer was a tunneller and was rescued and captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war in 1915. He survived the war and was ever grateful to the Germans for saving his life.Simon Dore
L/Cpl. John Thomas Denford 3rd Btn Monmouthshire Regiment (d.29th Dec 1915)Jack Denford, who was 22 at the time of his death, is interred at the Ferme-Olivier Cemetery.
Rfmn. Frank Harold Herbert MM. 1st Btn. Monmouthshire RegimentFrank Herbert was awarded a Military Medal for his actions as a stretcher bearer on the 8th of October 1918.Karen Davies
Cpl. Richard Llewellyn Davies 9th Btn. Royal Welch FusiliersCorporal Richard Llewellyn Davies of the 3rd Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment and the 9th Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers.He left his native village of Hollybush in the Sirhowy Valley Monmouthshire on the morning of the 5th of August 1914. Three times wounded and twice gassed he survived the whole of the main battles of the Western Front and returned home in January 1919. Of the nine volunteers that left the village with him, he was the only one to return home in 1919. A Book depicting the 9th Royal Welch Fusiliers is now published. It is called 'Never so innocent again' This was the chosen title after the diarist Richard Llewellyn Davies often used the expression to relate to his service. "I was never so innocent again after that bloody lot" He often said that.
As a point of interest many members may have been disappointed to find that their WW1 relative's documents were destroyed in 1940 by enemy bombimg. Very recently the Western Front Association acquired the pension documents of thousands of pensioned soldiers from WW1. I applied to them, and for £25 received a pile of documents relating to a particular ancestor. They provided an excellent service and I am grateful to them. Worth a try.Haydn Davies
Pte. Basil John Amyes 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment (d.11th May 1915)This is to remember my great uncle Basil Amyes who died aged only 20. Records show that on 10th May 1915 there were only 29 men left from 500 who had gone out to fight. Basil died on 11th May 1915. By the end of May the battalions were having to merge as there were so few men left in each unit. It is hard to imagine going from 'Honeysuckle Cottage' to life in the trenches. Basil has no marked grave but is remembered on the Yypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.Sue Tozer
Want to know more about Monmouthshire Regiment?There are:22585 pages and articles tagged Monmouthshire Regiment available in our LibraryThese include information on officers, regimental histories, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.
Available at discounted prices.
Surrender be Damned: History of the 1/1st Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment, 1914-18
Les Hughes & John DixonMore information on:
Surrender be Damned: History of the 1/1st Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment, 1914-18
Surrender be Damned: History of the 1/1st Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment, 1914-18
Les Hughes & John DixonMore information on:
Surrender be Damned: History of the 1/1st Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment, 1914-18
Never so innocent again
Richard Llewellyn Davies
A narrative written from the notes and diary of Corporal Richard Llewellyn Davies of the 3rd Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment and the 9th Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers. He left his native village of Hollybush in the Sirhowy Valley Monmouthshire on the morning of the 5th of August 1914. Three times wounded and twice gassed he survived the whole of the main battles of the Western Front and returned home in January 1919. Of the nine volunteers that left the village with him, he was the only one to return home in 1919More information on:
Never so innocent again
Never so Innocent Again
Richard Llewellyn Davie
A narrative written from the notes and diary of Corporal Richard Llewellyn Davies of the 3rd Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment and the 9th Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers.He left his native village of Hollybush in the Sirhowy Valley Monmouthshire on the morning of the 5th of August 1914. Three times wounded and twice gassed he survived the whole of the main battles of the Western Front and returned home in January 1919. Of the nine volunteers that left the village with him, he was the only one to return home in 1919.More information on:
Never so Innocent Again
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