Source: Captain John Oliver McELROY The Manchester Regiment. | The National Archive
This Statement concerns the OC of B Company of 18th Battalion, recounting his capture. My grandfather’s cousin 1095 L/Cpl. Alfred A Ridge was captured and died from his wounds in January 1918. Alf was posted to A Company which lost numerous men in the action and John McElroy’s Statement throws more light on events:-
PoW Statement A/Captain John Oliver McElroy 2nd January 1919
“Captured at Polderhoek Chateau [Ypres] 14th December 1917. Acting Captain with B Company of 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment, part of 90th Brigade in 30th Division. Repatriated 27th November 1918 and arrived in England 3rd December 1918. Address at Karkallas, Bunninadden, Co. Sligo.
STATEMENT regarding the circumstances which led to capture:-
My Battn held a sector of the line at Polderhoek Chateau about 900 yards in length, the Coy under my command was in the centre, my fighting strength was about 50 rifles and we held from 200 to 300 yards of line, the enemy were from 25 to 40 yards away. There was no wire in front of our line nor was any available for us to put up.
At about 2 AM on the morning of the 14/12/17 I received a message from Battn HQ stating that the Enemy would attack either during the night or early morning. I visited the posts in my line and saw that everything possible was done to meet the attack.
At 6 AM the enemy attacked fire was immediately opened upon him and two line of the Enemy who were advancing towards us were smashed. I sent up 2 S.O.S. signals both failed to work till quite close to the ground I had no telephone.
Some minutes after the attack started I heard a cry on my left saying the enemy were in the trench. I yelled “bomb them out” at the same time a few of my men left the trench I ordered them back and proceeded up the trench to my left to see what had happened there at this time a few bombs were thrown into the part of the trench I was in by the enemy one of whom I shot.
On passing round a bend in the trench I was confronted by two of the enemy who covered me with a revolver and rifle they ordered me to walk past them when I then found that the post I was to visit was already in the enemy’s possession and the men either killed or taken prisoner including my Coy Sergt Major [CQMS 10867 Joseph O’Connor?] and a Machine Gun Team.
I did not expect to see this post captured or the enemy between me and it.
J O McElroy A/Capt
At least fifty members of 18th Battalion were captured in the action, the majority of which were posted in A Company (Alf Ridge). John McElroy’s B Company was immdeiatley to the right of A Company in a line that was also weakly defended. John McElroy was repatriated in December 1918. He was then posted to 3rd Battalion in Cleethorpes. John contracted Influenza and died in a Grimsby Hospital on 4th March 1919. See Capt John Oliver McElroy (1882 – 1919) – Find A Grave Memorial and Bank of Ireland where John had been employed prior to his Commission in April 1915.
The War Office wrote to John’s mother after his death to confirm that he was not at fault for his capture. He was buried in Ireland where he is commemorated by CWGC