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"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15705, 20 January 1915
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS"
"THE MOST GLORIOUS PAGE IX OUR HISTORY."
SI-R JOHX FRENCH'S ILLUMINATING DESPATCH. (Continued from Yesterday's Issue.) No more arduous task has ever been assigned to British soldiers, and in ail their splendid history there is no instance of their having answered so magnificently to the desperate calls which of necessity were made upon them. —Kinjniy Givo Way.The 3rd Cavalry Division was similarly detailed for service with, the lsr Corps. I directed the 4th Corps Commander to proceed, with his Staff, to England, to watch and sup-snise the mobilisation -of his Bth Division. whiW was then proceeding. On the early morning of October 20 a- heavy attack developed against the centre of the line held by tho'lst Corps, tho principal point of attack being the cross roads mp mile east of Ghr.luvclt. .After severe lighting—nearly the whole of the corps being employed in counterattack the enemy began to give way, and by dark the Kruisoik Hill had been recaptured ami the Ist Brigade, had reestablished most- of the lino mnth of the Men in road. Shortly after daylight on the 30th another attack began to dc-velop in the direction of Zraulvooi'do, supported by heavy artillery fire. In face of this attack the 3rd Cavalry .Division had to withdraw to the Klein Zillebeke ridge. Sir Douglas Ifaig describes the positoin at this period as serious, the Germans being in possession of Zaadvoorde. Ridge. Subsequent investigation showed that the enemy had l-cen rcinf-".'ccd a; this point by the whole German Active 15th Corps.
—Prisoner's " Scrap of Paper." Our Ist Corps' communications through Ypres were threatened by the- advance- of the Germans towards the canal ; so orders were issued, for every effort tc be made to secure tho line I den held, and, w/itn this had b?eu thoroughly done, to resume the offensive.
An order, taken from a prisoner who had been captured on (his day purported to emanate fiom the German General. Von Beindiug. and said that- the 15th German Corps, Together with the 2nd Bavarian and 13th Corps. were entrusted with the task of breaking fbrougii the line lo Yprrs : and that the Emperor himself considered the success of this at tail; to he one of vital importance to the successful issue of the war. Perhaps the most important and decisive, attack (except, that, of the Prussian Guard on November 15) made against the First Corps during the wholes of its arduous experiences in the neighborhood of Ypres took piace on October 31. After several atiacks and counter-attacks during tlio course of the morning along the Menin Ypres road, south-east, of Gii.eluvelt, an attack again~t that place, developed in great force, nod the line of the Ist Division was broken. The Royal Scots Fusiliers remained it: their trenches and were cut off and surrounded.
Tiier: the neadqua,rters of the Ist an;! 2nd Divisions were shelled. Tho general otiicci- commanding Ist Division was W'luiidc-d, tluv" Stall' officers of the Ist Division and three of the 2nd Division were killed. The genera! officer commanding the 2nd Division also received a. severe shaking and was unconscious for a short. time. General Landon as ruined command of the Ist Division. The enemy came on in .-Ilength, but our First Corn* were ordered to hold the main line at tho bend of the canal at all cost*. The ls J , Division rallied, and at nightfall the 7tli Division, although ex--1 osed, had managed to hold on to their old trench?,?. -Gallantry of the Worcestere.■'Meantime, on '.he Meniu road, a counter attack delivered by the left of the Ist Division and the tight of the 2nd Division against the right Hank of tho German line was completely successful, and (Jheitivelt was retaken with the bayonet the. 2nd Woreest-eishire. Regiment being to the foie iu this, admirably supr.oited by the 42nd Brigade. Royal Field Artillery. With the capture of Gheluvclt the left of the 7th Division advanced almost to its original line, and connection between tho Ist and 7th. Divisions was reestablished. Two regiments of the- 6th Cavalry Brigade were sent at once to clear the. woods to the south-east and close the pi[: in the- line between the 7th Division and the 2nd Brigade. They advanced with much dash, paitly mounted and partly dismounted, and, surprising the enemy in the woods, succeed-ed in killing large, numbers and materially helped to restore the line. Steadily 'he enemy were driven back from, the woods and the line as we. held it in th" morning had born practically ie-oeeupied at. right. As. a result of the fighting on the 30th 870 wounded were evacuated. T was present with Sir Douglas. Haig at Hooge between 2 and 3 o'clock on this day, wh-?n the. Ist Division were retiring. I iegard it. as the most critical moment in (lie whole, of this great battle. The rally of the, Ist Division and the re.-aptcre of the village of Gheluvdt at such a time wa.s fraughtwith momentous consequences. If any one unit, can be singled out- for special praise, it ie the. Woreesters. —Strategy Win.-:.- -
In the meantime the, inure of my 'line, occupied by '.he 'Third and Cavalry C'oips, was being heavily pic.sf-ed by the enemy in ever-Increasing force, and the Germans filtered Le Gheir. As the position of the cavalry at St. Yves Mas thus endangered, a counterattack was decided upon and planned by General Huntet-Weeton and Lieutenant-colonel Anley. This proved entirely successful, the Goimans being driven back with great loss and the abandoned trcnclk's reoceupied. Two hundred prisoners weie taken and about 40 of our prisoners released. In these operations the staunchness of the King's Own Regiment and the Lancashire Fusiliers was most commsndabic. These two battalions were very weli handled by Lieutenant-colonei
Butler, of the Lancashire Fusiliers. I am anxious to bring to special notion llio cxreHent work done thiouyhont this iiaMlo by the Third (,'oip? under (lenernl Pukcncy's command. Their position in the riant central part of my line was of the utmost import mice to the general success of i.lm operations. Besides tho very undue length of fi'osit, which the corps was Ciller! upon to cover (sonic 12 or 13 miles), the portion presented many weak spots, and was ,-.lso attvide of tho River Lye, the vijiht bank of which from Frclinghein downwards, was sLioitjlv held by (Ik 1 enemy. It was impossible to provide, adequate, ie:-e)ves. ami the constant work in the trenches tried the endurance of officers and men to ili;- utmost-. That the corps was invariably «-ueco.sjful in repulsing the co-.istniit. attacks, sometimes in great strength, made against them by day and by liijrht is due entirely to the skilful .manner in which, the corps was disposed by it;-, commander, who has told me of the able assistance lie has received throughout from his Stuff, and the ability and resource displayed by divisional, brigade, and regimental leaders in using the ground and the means of defence «,t their disposal to the. very borst advantage. Th-s courage, tenacity, endurance, and cher-rfulness of the men in such unparalleled circumstances are beyond all praise. —Two Hundred Dead. — During the. nisrht of-October 25 tho Leicestershire Regiment were forced from their trenches by shells blowing in the pits the}' were in. and it was arranged to throw back the lino temporarily. About midnight a very heavy attack-developed against the 19th Infantry Brigade south ot' Croix Marechal.- A portion of the trenches of the .Middlesex Begiment was gained by the enemy and held by them for
1 some hours till recaptured with the assistance of the detachment from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from Brigade Reserve. 'The enemy in the trenches were all bayoneted or captured. Later information from prisoners showed that there ■ were 12 battalions opposite the 19th , Brigade. Over 2CO dead Germans were left lying in front of the Brigade's trenches, and 40 prisoners wore taken. On the. evening of the 30th the lino of the 11th Infantry Brigade in the neighborhood of St. Yves was broken. A counter-attack carried out by Major Prowse with th-e Somersot Light Infantry restored the situation. For "his services on this occasion this officer was recommended for special reward. On October 22 I directed the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, less on© battalion, to proceed to W-tdverghem in support of the Cavalry Corps. General Allenby sent two battalions to Wytschaefo ami Voormezeele to be be placed under the orders of General Go ugh, commanding the 2nd Cavalry Division. —Cavalry's Long Stretch.— On October 26 I directed General Allenby to endeavor to regain a more forward line, moving in conjunction with the 7th Division. But the latter being apparently quite unable to take the- offensive, the attemnt had to bo abandoned. Then the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, in face of powerful artillery fire, had to retire from the, trenches, and tho Ist Cavalry Division in the neighborhood of Messines was also threatened by a heavy infantry column. After a close survey of tho positions, and consultations with the G.O.C. the Cavalry Corps, J directed four battalions of tho Second Corps, which had lately been relieved front tho trenches by tho Indian Corps, to move, to Neuvc "Egtise, under General Shaw, in support of General Allenby. The London Scottish Territorial Battalion wax also sent to Neuve Eglise. It now fell to the lot of the Cavalry Corps, which had been much weakened by constant lighting, to oppose the advance of two nearly fresh German Army Corps for_ a period of 48 hours, pending the arrival of a French reinforcement. Their action was completely successful. I propose to send shortly a more detailed account- of the operation. —Praise for tho Indians.--
7'iie Third Corps, in its position on the. right of the Cavalry Corps, continued throughout, to repel constant attacks against its front, and suffered severely from the enemy's heavy artillery fire. The artillery of our 4th 'Division' constantly assisted the French in their attacks. The General Officer Commanding 3rd Corns brings specially to my notice, the excellent behaviour of the East Lancashire Regiment, the- Hampshire Regiment, and the Somersetshire Light Infantry in these latter operations; and tho skilful manner in which they were handled
by General Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-col. Butler, and the battalion commanders. The Lahoro Division arrived in its concentration area in rear of the. Second Corps on October 19 and 20. J ftavo already referred to the excellent work performed by the. battalions of this division which were .supporting the cavalry. On October 28, especially the -}7th Sikhs and the. 20th and 21«t companies of the, 3rd Sappers and .Miners distinguished themselves by their gallant conduct in tho attack on Xcuvo Chape'le. I >=nuf heavily in officers and men. After the arrival of iho. Mcertit Division at Corps Headquarters the- Indian Army Corps took over the line, previously held by the .Second Corps, which was then partially drawn back n>to re.-erve. The- Sectmderabad Cavalry Brigade arrived in the area during Xovem'j'?!' 1 and 2, and the Jodhpur Lancers came about the same time. These wero all temporarily attached to the Indian Corps. Up to the date of tho present despatch the lino held by th" Indian Corps has been subjected to constant bombardment by the ciKHiiy's heavy artillery, followed tip by infantry attacks. —Li vine; Up To .'Reputation. -
On October 13 the Bth Gurkha Bides of the Bareilly were driven from their trenches, and on November 2 a serious attack was developed asainst. a portion of the line west of Xeuve C'happelle. On this occasion the line was to some extent pierced, and \va« consequently slightly bent back. The situation was prevented from becoming serious by the excellent, leadership displayed by Colonel Xorie, of the 2nd Gurkha' Rifles'. Since their arrival in this country and their occupation of the line, allotted to them 1 have been much impressed by the initiative and resource displayed by the Indian troops. Soma of the. ntfi<v» they have employed to deceive the •enemy have been attended with the best results, and have doubtless kept superior forces in front of them at bov.
Tho Corps of Indian Sappers and Minors have long enjoyed a high reputation for skill and resource. Without going into detail. I can confidently assart that throughout their work in this campaign they have fully justified that reputation. The General Officer Commanding the Indian Army Corps describes the conduct and bearing of these troops in stranee. and new surroundings to have been highly satisfactory, and I am enabled, from'rny own observation, to fully corroborate hi's statement. (To be continued.)
"WHY WE HELD FLANDERS", Issue 15705, 20 January 1915
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