#FWW, #WW1 The battle of Bellewaarde 16th June 1915

I asked a few friends involved with a charity, of which I am a director, why they supported it. here is one reply.

Hi Pete,
 
Here’s a few words from me…..
 
Please help support our charity, Bellewaarde 1915, at www.bellewaarde1915.com. This short but bloody battle lasting 12 hours but costing the lives of 4000 men across both sides leaves the bodies of many of these beneath the battlefield. Lost to their families and consigned to history. Our aim is to erect 3 wonderful bronze statues outside of the Hooge Crater Museum at Ypres to commemorate them and to ensure their memories live on for generations to come. I, like many, have a Great Uncle who fell in the battle and who lies by friends and comrades, so please help us to ensure they are never forgotten.
 
Cheers,
Carl.
 

Carl’s Great Uncle was in the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, Killed in Action he has no known grae and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

Here is a few sections from a brief report of the battle dating from Twenty Years After, the battlefields of 1914-1918 then and now, published circa 1938.

 

“An attack on the 16th against Bellwaarde Ridge, from where the Germans were able to overlook most of the British positions east of Ypres, was marked by a tragic mix up, in which the most carefully-laid plans went astray… ”

The report goes on to say

“…Each infantryman of the 9th and 7th Brigades of the 3rd Division commanded by Maj-General J.A.L. Haldane, carried two extra bandoliers, a day’s rations beside the iron rations, two empty sandbags, and a waterproof sheet. Each battalion had 400 hand-grenades and 150 wire cutters; two platoons of each battalion had shovels on their backs. so where ever they were going it was intended they stay. one overloaded Tommy declared at the start that he was “Harry Tate in Moving Day,” and that the iron bedsteads were following.”

The objectives was for the first wave to to take the German Front line, the second wave to straighten the line from Hooge to Bellewaarde Farm and the first wave to go through the second wave to the German trench on the western edge of Bellewaarde Lake.

The first wave was very successful, it was the attack by the second wave that things went wrong. Both the Royal Irish Rifles and the Honourable Artillery Company, ignored orders to wait and rushed over the top to join the attack. The result was a shambles, soldiers from different units got mixed up, troops pressed on to early.

Here the History of the Royal Fusiliers takes up the story.

"The 4th Royal Fusiliers were in position, east of Cam- 
bridge Road trench, at 1.30 a.m. on June 16th, on the right 
of the brigade front. Immediately in front of them lay 
the wood with a trench guarding its western edge. At 
2.50 a.m. the artillery bombardment began, and two hours 
later two companies advanced in half-company column 
and captured the front German line without much resist- 
ance, the wire having been so effectually cut that no 
difficulty was experienced by our infantry in climbing 
through it and scaling the enemy parapet. In some places 
the wire was swept away as though it had never been. 
Dead and wounded were lying about ; and the unwounded 
appeared to have been demoralised by our shell fire — a 
welcome change — into surrender. 

On the right the two supporting companies of the 4th 
Battalion pushed through the wood to the trench on the 
west bank of Bellewarde Lake. But they advanced too 
quickly for our artillery and suffered very heavily, despite 
every attempt to correct the range by coloured screens. 
At 10 a.m. the brigadier of the 7th Brigade had taken com- 
mand ; and he ordered Major Hely Hutchinson to go into 
the wood which had been just captured by the battalion 



and organise the men who remained. This was imme- 
diately done. 

But the bombardment by our own and the enemy's 
artillery was too much, and after considerable loss the 
4th Battalion withdrew to a communication trench which 
had been turned into a fire trench by Captain de la 
Perrelle. This position was held against all counter- 
attacks until in the early part of the afternoon orders were 
received to retire. 

All the day the battalion was under heavy artillery fire, 
and during the afternoon gas shells were used freely ; but the 
men's behaviour was very fine.

Our behaviour should also be very fine, a small memorial at Hooge Crater Museum is a hundred years over due.

 

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