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The Royal Welch Fusiliers
The Royal Welch Fusiliers was raised in 1689.
Battalions during the Great War.
- 1st Battalion
- 2nd Battalion
- 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/4th (Denbighshire) Battalion
- 2/4th (Denbighshire) Battalion
- 3/4th Battalion
- 1/5th (Flintshire) Battalion
- 2/5th (Flintshire) Battalion
- 3/5th Battalion
- 1/6th (Carnarvonshire & Anglesey) Battalion
- 2/6th (Carnarvonshire & Anglesey) Battalion
- 3/6th Battalion
- 1/7th (Merioneth & Montgomery) Battalion
- 2/7th (Merioneth & Montgomery) Battalion
- 3/7th Battalion
- 8th (Service) Battalion
- 9th (Service) Battalion
- 10th (Service) Battalion
- 11th (Service) Battalion
- 12th (Reserve) Battalion
- 13th (1st North Wales) Battalion
- 14th (Service) Battalion
- 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion
- 16th (Service) Battalion
- 17th (2nd North Wales) Battalion
- 18th (2nd London Welsh) Battalion
- 19th (Service) Battalion
- 20th (Reserve) Battalion
- 22nd (Reserve) Battalion
- 23rd Battalion
- 24th (Denbighshire Yeomanry) Battalion
- 25th(Montgomery & Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion
- 26th (Service) Battalion
- 1st Garrison Battalion
- 2nd Garrison Battalion
- 3rd (Reserve) Garrison Battalion
- 4th Garrison Battalion
- 5th (Home Service) Garrison Battalion
- 6th Garrison Battalion
- 7th Garrison Battalion
Can you add to this factual information? Do you know the whereabouts of this unit on a particular day? Which battles they took part in? Or any other interesting snipts?
Those known to have served with The Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Great War.
Select a story link or scroll down to browse those stories hosted on this site.
- Capt. Frederick Barter VC, MC. Read their Story.
- Cpl. John Bennett (d.1st Sep 1916) Read their Story.
- Cpl George Costall MM Read their Story.
- Pte. J. Davies (d.7th Jun 1917)
- Cpl. James Llewellyn Davies VC (d.31 July 1917)
- Charles Leonard Doherty Read their Story.
- Pte. William Henry Dunnicliffe (d.27th Sep 1917) Read their Story.
- L/Cpl. Thomas Evans (d.9th Jul 1916) Read their Story.
- 2nd Lt. Thomas George Read their Story.
- Pte. Rhys Griffiths (d.24th Jul 1918) Read their Story.
- Pte. Henry Lesie "Ted" Jasper Read their Story.
- L/Sjt. Frank Mason Jenkins MM. (d.8th May 1918) Read their Story.
- Sgt. John Allen Jones Read their Story.
- Pte. William Kimber (d.26th Sept 1917) Read their Story.
- Major John Henry Langton DSO Read their Story.
- Sgt. Ernest Larwood MM. (d.8th Sept 1918) Read their Story.
- Pte. Thomas Milton "Hammie" Mason (John Davies) (d.7th Jun 1917) Read their Story.
- Sgt Joseph Thomas Matthews (d.22nd April 1918) Read their Story.
- Sergeant John Thomas Nicholls DCM. Read their Story.
- Pte. Mathias Oliver Read their Story.
- Pte. William Pritchard (d.4th Nov 1915) Read their Story.
- Lt. Arthur Roberts Read their Story.
- Lt. James Chambers Sproule Read their Story.
- Pte. Ernest Strode (d.29th Apr 1917) Read their Story.
- L/Sgt. William Herbert Waring VC,MM. (d.8th Oct 1918)
- Sjt. Isaac Waters Read their Story.
- Sgt. Henry Weale VC.
- H. Lloyd Williams
- Capt. Arthur William Wolffsohn Read their Story.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add,, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.
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Please note we currently have a backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site.
Cpl George Costall MM Welch FusiliersGeorge Costal attested into the British Army on 12 Aug 1904. During World War One he was a corporal with the Royal Welsh Fusilliers, service number 8458. He was wounded and discharged from the army as a result of injuries on 17 Jul 1917. He was awarded the Military Medal, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Information from the Medal Index Card (The National Archive, London)
Pte. William Kimber 10th Btn. Royal Welsh Fusliers (d.26th Sept 1917)My mum never knew her father, William Kimble, as she was 2 years old when he was killed in action but she had some photos, which she looked at every day but never talked much about him, so when she died I decided to find out about this man (my grandad) who gave his life for us.
I cannot find out how and were he died. Mam said he got blown up but how could I find out were it was as we are going to Sanctury wood in a few weeks were he is buried. Mum says he was never found but I have found a grave number but would like to see were he was fighting and lost his life but need to find out were the 10th battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers were fighting that day. Can anyone help?
Update: William's service records are available online at Ancestry.co.uk He is listed as "wounded & missing" on the 26th Sept 1917. The cemetery in which he now lies was created after the war and many men who were buried in smaller cemeteries or recovered from the battlefield after the war were laid to rest there, it is very likely he was amongst their number.
On the day William was killed, his battalion were taking part in the Battle of Polygon Wood, the 10th RWF advanced over ground near Zonnebeke to the right of the railway and crossed the Steenbeek along with the 2nd Suffolks. After they had crossed the railway line they came under heavy machine gun fire from the railway station and were unable to capture it, though parties from the RWF did manage to enter the centre of Zonnebeke. The the 10th RWF held 150 yards of the road running north-west from the church.
2nd Lt. Thomas George 16th Btn. Royal Welsh FusiliersThomas was the Son of John and Lettice George, of Brynhir, Pembrey. He came from a coal mining family and was one of eight children. He had been commissioned into the 16th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who were attached to the 113th Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division.
The Division had landed in France during December 1915 and had spent their first winter in the trenches near Armentieres. In June they marched south to the Somme, where they were tasked with the capture of Mametz Wood. The attack on the wood began on the 7th July, but met with fierce resistance, and it took until the 14th July to clear the wood.
The Division suffered terrible casualties at Mametz, and were taken out of the line, and moved to Ypres to rebuild. Here they fought at Pilckem and Langemarck, then moved to Armentieres, where they remained from September 1917 until March, 1918 when the German Spring Offensive was launched.
The British had been over-run on the Somme, and so in April the Division was moved south, taking up positions North of Albert, from where they weathered the storm of the coming months, until the war turned during the Battle of Amiens, on the 8th August, 1918. The Germans had now lost the upper hand, and the British regained the lost ground on the Somme after an attack which began on the 21st August, with the 38th Welsh in the midst of the attack during the Battle of Albert.
Thomas was killed in action just 6 days into the attack, on the 27th August, 1918. He was 24 years old, and is buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. There is a a commemorative bronze candlestick to Thomas in St. Illtyds church, Pembrey. Thomas is cited on the Pembrey war memorial. I would welcome any further information.
Major John Henry Langton DSO 1/4th Btn. Welsh FusiliersServed with the 1\4 RWF 2nd February 1917 through to end of hostilities, leading the Battalion as Lt Col in the final 100 days.
Sergeant John Thomas Nicholls DCM. 9th Btn. Welsh FusiliersSgt Nicholls was my great-grandfather, a coal miner from St Helens, Lancashire. He volunteered for service in 1914 and sailed for France on 19/7/15.
On 28th August, 1917, the following appeared in the London Gazette: "13621 Sjt. J. T. Nicholls, R. W. Fus. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He reached the enemy's lines some distance ahead of his assaulting platoon, whereupon he attacked twenty of the enemy single-handed, bayoneted three of them and kept the rest prisoners until the arrival of his platoon. He later showed marked ability and coolness in assisting his company commander under heavy shell fire."
I am not certain of where this action took place, but as it usually took around 3 months for medal awards to appear in the Gazette, there is a good chance it was at Messines. Later in the war, John was posted as missing on 13/05/18, but there is no record of him having been a POW, so it is possible he managed to return to his unit- this being in the midst of the German Spring Offensives. He ws discharged on 25/3/19 and returned to St Helens and mining. He died in 1945, aged 59, leaving behind his wife Sarah and six daughters, including my grandmother, Ada.
Pte. Rhys Griffiths 9th Btn Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.24th Jul 1918)Rhys Griffiths is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery
Sjt. Isaac Waters Flintshire and Denbighshire YeomanrySergeant 3177 Ike Waters was my grandfather. He was a member of the Denbighshire Yeomanry, a mounted Territorial Force, prior to WW1 and then at the outbreak of war the Yeomanry formed part of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He served in that regiment with service number 345393. I recall as a young boy seeing a photo of my grandfather on his horse in Egypt and I believe this was taken in 1915. He then went back to the Denbighshire Yeomanry with service number 340401 and ended his army service with the RASC, number T/232880. Unfortunately I've not been able to trace his war service record and assume it is amongst the many that were destroyed.
Pte. Mathias Oliver 6th Btn. Royal Welsh FusiliersMy great grandad, Mathias Oliver served with the Welsh Fusiliers during WW1. He was a miner before the war and joined up at the age of 25 we think. He was a private in the Fusiliers and ended up going to fight the Turks in Palastine. He was gased and captured by the Turks and we think he spent 2 yrs in a POW camp.
He was released after the war but died 1 or 2 yrs later from gas poising leaving 3 children and a wife. On his death bed he asked his best mate to look after his family.That he did as a lot of folk did in those days. He has a plaque in Manchester (screen wall 1839) Philips Park Cemetery.
I would love to find out more about him and the battles the brave men fought on the campaign. I'm sure there's more to his story but it's quite hard to find out being it was so long ago. If anyone has any info on his Regiment and photos I would love to hear more, thanks.
Charles Leonard Doherty 5th Battalion, C Company Royal Welsh FusiliersCharles joined the 18th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment in December 1915 when aged 16, but was brought back by his Father as he was under age. He later went to France with the Welsh Regiment (no 73148) and then joined Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 5th Battalion, C Company (80223). He was wounded in France by shrapnel and gas. He was sent to Tralee near Limmerick during the troubles, after he was wounded.
Lt. Arthur Roberts 16th Battalion (Cardiff City) Royal Welsh FusiliersI have a old Ordnance Survey map of the Winchester area and on the front cover is written 'Lt. Arthur Roberts, 16th. Battalion/Welsh Regiment Cardiff City'. I believe they moved to Winchester in August 1915. I would be interested to know what happened to him in WW1 and whether he survived the war. Thanks
Pte. William Henry Dunnicliffe 10th Btn. Royal Welch Fusiliers (d.27th Sep 1917)William Dunnicliffe was killed on the 27/9/1917, at the Battle of Passchendaele, 3rd Battle of Ypres, two months before his brother Harold. There is no known grave but his name is commemorated on panels 63/65 at the Tyne Cot Cemetary, Belgium.
Pte. Ernest Strode 10th Btn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.29th Apr 1917)The 10th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were in 76th Brigade of 3rd Division. They had been in action on the 9th April 1917 in the 1st Battle of the Scarpe, then relieved for a while but were back at the front on the 19th in the area east of Monchy-le-Bois in order to take part in the attack of the 3rd May. The divisional commander kept two of his brigades fresh for the attack whilst 76th held the line. It was constantly under bombardment and in the time between 24th April and 1st May when the two other brigades took over there were 464 casualties.
My great uncle Ernest Strode, would have been one of them. The fact that he was killed in the British lines is why he has a grave, unlike so many who fell in April and May 1917. The war diary for the 10th for this time simply notes Fine (meaning the weather) Holding Line; two officer deaths the only other entries. Incidentally the CWGC has my great uncle's death as on the 28th, not the 29th.
The War Diary printed by Lt.Col. F.N. Burton gives the rank and names of the 10th RWF casualties on a day by day basis and shows Pte 15178 E Strode Died of Wounds on Sunday 29th April. On 1st May it is endorsed 'This eight day tour of duty in the Monchy trenches was a costly one to the battalion, the casualties amounting to 3 Officers and 24 other ranks killed in action: and one officer and 85 other ranks wounded. Ernest is not shown on the wounded list for any of the previous days.
Ernest Strode was born Caldicot, Monmouthshire, enlisted in Wrexham and was resident Loughop, Glamorgan. He is at rest a Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras
L/Sjt. Frank Mason Jenkins MM. 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.8th May 1918)Frank was the Son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jenkins, of 4, Nevill's Terrace, Dafen, and he enlisted at Llanelli into the 9th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, which were part of 58 Brigade, 19th (Western) Division. The Division crossed to France during July 1915, and moved to positions near Loos. The Division fought during the opening attack of the Battle of Loos, and then moved to the Somme, where they took part in the second wave of the attack on Ovillers-La Boiselle on the 1st of July 1916, capturing the village at heavy cost, and fought through the Somme Battles of Pozieres and the Ancre in 1916. They then moved North to Ypres, taking part in the Battle of Messines, and fought on the Menin Road and at Polygon Wood, before moving up to Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele Village itself. In 1918 they were caught up in the German Spring Offensive near St. Quentin, where they suffered terrible casualties. They moved to Ypres, but were caught up in the German attack at Messines. Frank was wounded here, and died on the 8th of May 1918. He was 27 years old, and is buried at Poperinghe New Military Cemetery, Belgium. Sadly Frank is not commemorated on the Dafem Memorial.
L/Cpl. Thomas Evans 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.9th Jul 1916)Only found out about my Great Grandfather's War Service in 2010. I knew that he had died in 1916 and that my Grandmother's middle name was Loos after the final battle he fought in and in honour of the father she never knew. We understand that he was previously wounded and spent time repatriating back in Wales (fortunately for my immediate family and myself!). Information including postcards and letters came to the surface in 2010 that gave us a greater insight into the man. First and foremost, he was a regular soldier before the War began and that he died in a French hospital of wounds he sustained in the Battle of Loos in Belgium. He is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery in France and my brother and his partner are planning to visit the grave when they fly to Europe later this year. As we say in Australia: "Lest We Forget".
Pte. William Pritchard 2/6th Btn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.4th Nov 1915)William Pritchard was my great grandfather. He was born in Bangor, North Wales in 1866, one of 14 children. He had been a regular in the army and re-enlisted in 1914 at the age of 48. He joined the 2/6th Royal Welsh Fusailiers (Caernarfon & Anglsey) a second line unit set up after the outbreak of WW1.
He died on the 14th of November 1915 and is buried in a war grave at Glanadda Banor.
Pte. Henry Lesie "Ted" Jasper Monmouthshire RegimentMy late father, Ted Jasper was a Lewis Gunner 1st class, shot sometime between 1917 and 1918. He survived a gas attack and after spending time in hospital in Aberdeen was sent to Ireland. I have been able to trace his medal card record which gives his service number with the Monmouthshire Regiment as being 60951 and also 94073 with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. I can find no other service records for him. He never told us any real details although he lived to be 87 years old.
Cpl. John Bennett 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (d.1st Sep 1916)John was one of three brothers who died in the War. Private Herbert Bennett served with the Northumberland Fusiliers and Private William Bennett with the Cheshire Regiment. Any info on this family please.
Sgt. Ernest Larwood MM. 25th Batallion Royal Welch Fusiliers (d.8th Sept 1918)Ernest Larwood was born in Yarmouth Norfolk 1898 but the family moved to London. He originally enlisted in Middlesex Regiment S/16102 and won the Military Medal.
Sgt. John Allen Jones 10th (Service) Battalion Royal Welch FusiliersMy father, John Allen Jones, volunteered for the RWF on 7th September 1914 and was trained in England, promoted Sergeant in January 1915 and sent to France with his Unit on 27th September 1915. They were deployed on the Ypres salient and took part in operations over the next few months. He was wounded, probably only slightly, on 2nd March 1916, but had returned to the line and was gravely wounded on 29th April 1916 by the explosion of a German shell which fell into a group of RWF men who had just come down from the Front and were resting in a French farmyard. Five deaths and 27 woundings are recorded in the War Diary of that day. Miraculously, within 48 hours my father was received into the Wharncliffe War Hospital in Sheffield.
He was operated on for wounds in his right leg, as many as 20 times over the next months and, as a result of dedicated care from the surgical and nursing staff he was released to the care of Sir Robert Jones at Alder Hey Hospital Liverpool in June 1917.
Finally he was discharged from the Army in November 1917 as 'no longer fit for War Service'. He returned to civilian life, graduated from University and served his Community in North Wales as Headmaster, Mayor and Alderman for the next 50 years until his death in 1966.
Sgt Joseph Thomas Matthews Royal Welch Fusiliers (d.22nd April 1918)Joseph Thomas Matthews,aged just 21,son of Hugh and Ellen Matthews. Commemorated at Pozieres British Cemetery, Somme. Also commemorated at Rhosllannerchrugog (Rhos) church yard at the grave of his mother and father. Written with pride and rememberance by his Great Nephew.
Capt. Frederick Barter VC, MC. 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers,Frederick Barter was 24 years old, and a company sergeant-major in the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers when he was awarded the VC.
"On 16th of May 1915 at Festubert, France, Company Sergeant-Major Barter, when in the first line of German trenches, called for volunteers to enable him to extend our line, and with the eight men who responded, he attacked the German position with bombs, capturing three German officers, 102 men and 500 yards of their trenches. He subsequently found and cut 11 of the enemy's mine leads situated about 20 yards apart."
Capt. Arthur William Wolffsohn 9th Btn. Royal Welsh FusiliersOne of the most effective war posters put out by Lord Kitchener in August 1914 was one showing some children asking their father "Daddy what did you do in the Great War?" later to be replaced by "Your Country Needs You" As military conscription was not enforced until years later, this poster shamed some thousands of unwilling volunteers to join up. As soon as conscription started, patriotism went by the board. You just waited to be called up or found the best means of avoiding it. No one was going to ask you what you did in the Great War. You just did what you were told, and that was your answer.
As one who joined up as a volunteer in 1914 and thus completely ruined my studies and future career I always wanted to be an engineer. I am still bitter at those that by not joining up were able to get five years head start on any youngster of business age who, after having fought for his country, found on his return that the best jobs were already taken and were in fact looked down upon as totally inexperienced for his age. These are the same men who always come forward first when there was any loyalty about to show the patriotism they so surely threw away when there was a chance to give their lives for King and Country.
I have started out some five or six times to try to give a concise answer to my son or his family as to what the War was like and what part I took in it, not that one, in so many millions who took up the colours, can claim to have played more than an infinitesimal part in winning that struggle. In fact, I have heard that the Americans did it.
It is now 54 years since the War commenced , so that anyone under 65 cannot have much idea of the sufferings of the troops living day and night in heavy thigh gum boots in trenches, sometimes over their knees in liquid mud, having to e relieved every 48 hours, with the consequent march over miles of shell holes, quagmires of mus, snow and slush in pitch darkness under shell fire to reach slightly better dug-outs. The weeks of nervous tension seeing your best friends riddled, blown up and mutilated by rifle or shell fire and knowing that the same thing might happen to you at any moment. The hopelessness of it all when neither side from 1914 to 1916 were able to advance an inch. Or from August 18th 1916 when the Allies advances were thrown back practically to the original line by the Germans after both sides had lost a million men.
A short history of our 9th Division was published in 1919 and our Battalion Major, subsequently A/Lt. Col. T/Major H. Lloyd-Williams published his personal experiences, giving full details of the participation of the 9th RWF in that war.
I therefore propose to condense onto one page my own war service movements in England, Belgium and France and then concentrate, not so much on the unpleasantness of the War, but on the highlights of some of the fighting I was in and the occasional amusing, at least to me, incidents that took place.
My first experience of going up the line consisted of being driven up in an old London motor bus with solid tyres, still marked "Piccadilly" with all the advertisements intact. En route we stopped in a wood opposite some roofless houses. There was an enormous explosion and half the bus load of raw troops, including myself, tumbled out and got under the bus as best we could to avoid the second shell. Nothing happened and when we emerged we had quite an audience of grinning old-stagers. The explosion had been a salvo of our own light field guns hidden in the shelled houses.
After sunset we left the bus and conducted a working party of men with spades to do some water drawing in the second line. As we proceeded, rifle shots burst out every few seconds, some going thump and others ricocheting over our heads with a frightening squeal. The men, now made up of veterans, did not seem at least worried over this fire, but I was convinced that unless I did some bobbing down I would surely be hit. I there chose to oversee the work being done at the lowest possible point of the ditches, and in some cases I stood in the water itself to be a foot or two lower.
Being pitch dark I hoped the men would not notice my antics. I afterwards leant that due to the water level being about one foot below earth, the second line (that is trench) had been converted into a six foot breastwork of sandbags filled with earth. The bullets being fired at us either hit the breastworks or ricocheted overhead, so that we had been in comparative safety.
The signs of previous battles were everywhere. Out in No-Man's-Land were strewn the corpses, which from the fragments of kit remaining could not be recognised as Scottish troops. It may sound gruesome at this moment, but one used those days to crawl and fall over such remains and take cover behind them when patrolling about in No-Man's-Land with as little concern as one would regard any other obstacle. There was much snow about and on moonlight nights the whiteness and the silence were ghost like in their effective and, when more intense than usual, the calling of some wounded or starving cat in some ruin behind the line intensified the eeriness.
As Battalion Machine Gun Officer I had placed four guns in strategic positions so that each gun's sweep of bullets would intersect the next, thus allowing no part of No-Man's-Land to be free from machine gun fire.
I was returning to my dug out in the second line, from which point I could visit the guns by the shortest routes, when I saw a flash-light being waved indiscriminately along communication trenches which was of course, strictly forbidden. I immediately yelled "Put out that ruddy light". A few minutes passed and the light went out. Suddenly I saw a figure shuffling past me. I thought his steel helmet seemed unusual and then "Hello Winston, I didn't expect to see you here". I realized that I was perhaps the only British Officer who has ever given such an order to Churchill. I is right about the tin hat. Winston would never wear the hat in vogue; it was a French blue steel helmet he had picked up somewhere.
A day before Christmas in these same lines, the Germans gave us a barrage of tear gas shells which affected our eyes in spite of our crude masks. That evening they put Christmas candles on their parapets and sang suitable songs calling on us to have an armistice the next day. This had occurred on another front the previous year and had been strictly forbidden since then. At dawn on Christmas day the Germans stood on their parapet waving and cheering and we noticed they looked like boys of 16. Our 14lb battery Observation Officer was standing beside me and I saw him pick up the phone. A few seconds later four shells spread shrapnel fairly close to the Germans, who dived into their earthworks and were not seen again. Our guns were limited to firing one round per gun per day due to the intense shortage of ammunition, afterwards solved by Lloyd-George as Minister of Defence.
The Germans holding these lines were mostly Bavarians of a friendly type. When the Prussians were to relieve them they yelled to us the previous night Royal Welch, they had found out somehow, "Be careful tomorrow, the Prussians are coming". The first man who showed his head the next morning was instantly sniped at. They also had a sense of humour. One day I saw the tops of ladders being carried along their lines. Thinking I might get a head popping up carelessly, I trained a rifle I had attached to a periscope (so I could shoot without lifting my head) on the ladders and had several shots at them. Within a few minutes, a stick with a round disk painted red was displayed above the German trench; this was waved from one side to the other the exact signal used by us when practising on our own rifle ranges to indicate a miss.
In March 1916, by which time I had been promoted to 1st Lieut. We were in a portion of the front line where the distance between the opposing trenches varied from 800 to only 40 yards. Where the two trenches converged to the 40 yards separation was called the Ducks Bill, due to its similarity of the trench design.
To prevent hand-bombs falling into out trenches, these later were covered with chicken wire, and there were all sorts of trap dugouts and inner defences. Actually this position became too hot for either side and we withdrew all but a few sentries.
My dug-out was some 300 yards from this point and one night I thought I heard curious tapings. I mentioned this to some officer passing through and he must have alerted Headquarters at St.Omer who, to my astonishment sent up two mining experts with listening gear to interview me.
Ordering everyone not to move, they listened at various points for something like two hours and reported that they could not discover anything unusual. My ears proved correct, at dawn a few days later I heard a tremendous explosion, my dug-out shook like an earthquake and, although I got out quickly I could still see sandbags, men, earth and debris some two hundred feet in the sky. The Ducks Bill had blown, causing many casualties amongst the North Staffordshire Regiment and many men were shell-shocked or completely unfit for action. Being out of my area, I could only alert my guns against a possible attack and bring one gun to bear slightly in the direction of the gap thus caused in the line. However the South Wales Borderers rushed up from reserve and held the line against a few hostile attempts to dislodge them.
On 7th September 1916 our Battalion was in the trenches at Plug Street (Polegstreet) the home of Bairsfather's cartoons, who does not remember If you know a better hole, go to it and visited Armentieres the various Mademoiselles seemed to be employed in an open laundry within shelling distance of the Huns. Here I was nearly hit by a new German mortar shell shaped like a pineapple which buzzed like a hornet.
As time wore on and the men saw that I never seemed to be wounded in action (out of four hundred officers passing through the ranks of the RWF during the war, the Major H.Lloyd Williams and myself were the only two left in 1918, the others being killed or wounded, missing or transferred; they seemed to classify me as a Human Tank. When one goes over the top the drill is to be single line spaced outwards, the men being at least five yards apart. On the Somme, on the first attack when I was halfway between the hostile trenches, I found no men for a considerable distance on either side of me. Looking back, they were strung out in a line behind me they explained that as no bullet would hit me, the safest place was exactly behind me.
Aviation was very primitive in 1914/15 and planes were only used for observation, until one day an officer took out his revolver and fired at a German in mid air. It did not take long for them to take up Lewis Machine Guns with them and then came the invention of firing through the propeller.
One day sitting in billets in Belgium we heard a hum of planes, on rushing out we saw a German crash diving into a ploughed field, his wheels hit a deep rut, the plane overturned and the Observer and his Officer fell clear leaving the Pilot, a sergeant, with a bullet through his calf hanging upside down caught by his belt. The amazing thing is that the three British planes either thought the German crew would escape or were making sure that they were their particular prize. They therefore dived down onto the ploughed field and promptly nosed into the ground or turned over. A stiff price to pay for two Germans. Our men soon turned out and watched as the German officer took out a suitcase, removed his flying helmet, windjammer etc. and replaced them with a smart drill helmet and uniform coat of a German aviator. Then, pulling out his greatcoat he held it out for one of our men to act as valet, and was surprised when he was left standing with it. I, as a machine gun officer, was given the German machine gun to take to pieces. It had jammed which probably caused their downfall, and try as we might we never managed to unjam it.
Another day, as I was taking a long line of mule limbers up the line; I saw a German plane diving like a falling leaf. Thinking he was bluffing, I ordered the mule train off the road and, sure enough, the German straightened up and came down the road. Just as I thought he would start firing, he swerved off and crashed in a field nearby. We found him upside down in his cockpit dead as a doornail, with no passengers. As these men never flew alone, we thought the Observer must have fallen off. They must have died at considerable height and the falling leaf manoeuvre widely used later as a bluff must have been the planes natural way of crashing. Our men who had taken cover under the limbers looked sheepish when they realised that the plane could have done them no harm.
The Germans extended their raids with their Zeppelins as proves this extract for Lloyd Williams. On the evening of Friday November 18th 1917, I found a telegram from Ian Baxter, and catching the 6 p.m. train met him and Wolffsohn at the Criterion Theatre where we witnessed A Little B it of Fluff. Later we had supper at the Trocadero, in the course of which the alarms were sounded that an air raid was in progress. We went outside to observe the kind of barrage that was said to be fired by anti-aircraft guns, but quickly hurried back to cover when we heard the whistle of bombs which fell in Piccadilly near Swan & Edgar's corner.
Another curious affair occurred at Rocquingy in an aerodrome in the back lines near where we were camped. One night a large plane circled our field a few times and then shot off, green and red Verey lights circling off again. On the next pass the ground staff shot off similar lights and the plane glided in. A German Gotha straight into our laps. Apparently it had lost its way and the lights were the code for answering signals from German aerodromes. The bright RFC officer had brought off a scoop. The Germans had made the reply lights the same as the planes, presumably on the theory that no one would be so foolish as to devise so simple a code, and hence the British would reply in different colours.
Available at discounted prices.
Old Soldiers Never Die
Frank Richards served in the 2/ Royal Welch Fusiliers along with (at one time or another) Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, and Dr Dunn (compiler of the amazing 'The War That The Infantry Knew'- possibly THE best battalion history of WW1- and a good companion to this book as its interesting to cross reference small incidences somtimes...). Anyway, Richards was slightly different to his literary contemporaries in that he was 'Other Ranks', and a miner by trade. He was recalled to the colours in 1914 after several years on the reserve, and served as a Private right through to 1918. He writes his story as one would imagine he spoke- and for me as I read it, it was a style as if he was telling me his war history in anecdotes down the pub or something, supping over a pint of mild: theres no deep soul searching here, but plenty of bitterness, a lot of detail, and what an experience he had... So if you don't have this in your collection then get it now- one of the very few 'OR' books (IMore information on:
Old Soldiers Never Die
Up to Mametz - and Beyond
Llewelyn Wyn Griffith
Llewelyn Wyn Griffith s Up to Mametz, published in 1931, is now firmly established as one of the finest accounts of soldiering on the Western Front. It tells the story of the creation of a famous Welsh wartime battalion (The Royal Welch Fusiliers), its training, its apprenticeship in the trenches, through to its ordeal of Mametz Wood on the Somme as part of 38 Division. But there it stopped. General Jonathon Riley has however discovered Wyn Griffith s unpublished diaries and letters which pick up where Up to Mametz left off through to the end of the War. With careful editing and annotation, the events of these missing years are now available alongside the original work. They tell of an officer s life on the derided staff and provide fascinating glimpses of senior officers, some who attract high praise and others who the author obviously despised. The result is an enthralling complete read and a major addition to the bibliography of the period. Llewelyn Wyn Griffiths was born into a WelMore information on:
Up to Mametz - and Beyond
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