Ypres & Polderhoek – August to December 1917

For a full annotated transcript, please see the great work by Steve Ward on the Battalion War Diary.

17th Battalion had withdrawn from the battlefield from the assault from the area of Sanctuary Wood, Ypres the men rendezvoused at Zillebeke on the morning of 1 August 1917 and due to heavy shelling moved to  bivouacs in the Chateau Segard area.

Major John James Whitehead DSO received confirmation of his substantive rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  As second in command Edmund Fearenside DSO was promoted to Major.  Both officers had been acting Commanding Officer and second in command respectively and the promotions were effective from 29 June 1917.  2nd Lieutenant John Edward Lightburn was evacuated to England, sick and taken off strength on 2 August.  He was posted back to the Battalion on 22 September.

In subsequent days and weeks the Battalion was reorganising and moved to  Wippenhoek. After travelling west to France, the Battalion moved between St Sylvertre-Cappel, Merris and Berthen, finally moving back towards the front in Belgium near Kemmel on 22 August.

Lieutenant Colonel Whitehead DSO had departed for 10 days leave on 16 August and Major Fearenside took command. Major Hugh Tonbridge Pomfret became acting Second in Command.

2nd Lieutenant Harry Vivian Taylor MC (Former Public Schools Battalion commissioned 2nd Battalion with which he had been an acting Captain and awarded MC for action at Manchester Hill) arrived for duty on 15 August.  On the same day Captain Francis Joseph Janion was posted sick to England and was struck of strength.  He later took up a post as a Camp Commandant and did not return to front line duty.  2nd Lieutenant William Alvared Roe Clifton was formerly transferred as unfit to 30th Infantry Brigade Depot and taken off strength on 18 August.

2nd Lieutenant Thomas Frederick Goldsmith was transferred to the strength of 90th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery on 20 August, where he survived hostilities gaining an MC and Bar.

Replacement subalterns arrived for duty in the field.  2nd Lieutenants Cecil Hill (Commissioned as an original member of 20th Bttn), Norman Heywood (Commissioned from Army Ordnance Corps) and Cornelius Theobald Marshall (Commissioned from 24th (Sportsmans) Battalion Royal Fusilers) were taken on strength on 22 August with Leonard Rathbone who returned to duty. 2nd Lieutenant William Spencer (Commissioned from Artists Rifles) arrived the next day.

The Battalion took over reserve positions at Messines, south of Ypres on 28 August.  A draft of fifteen Other Ranks joined for duty.  17th Battalion relieved 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion in the line north of the river Douve on the following night.  Twelve Other Ranks were wounded.  Private 32493 William McCann was recorded wounded and one of two men posted missing.  He was later assumed to have been killed in action on 31 August. 2nd Lieutenant James Gauntlett (Commissioned from Royal Garrison Artillery) had arrived for duty from base on the same day.

The Battalion were Relieved on 3 September and returned to Kemmel, at Kia-Ora Camp. Working parties were provided to the Royal Engineers and Lewis Gun training was undertaken along with the RSMs proficiency class. Former Army Service Corps man, Private Harry Storey, died of wounds at No 1 Casualty Clearing Station.   Private 7552 Philip Rigby was killed in action on 8 September and Private William Richardson was killed the next day.  As the Battalion was out of the line it is assumed they were killed on attachment to the Engineers.

2nd Lieutenant Stanislaus Alfred Knowles was evacuated to England with Sickness on 2 September and 2nd Lieutenant William Alvared Roe Clifton was struck off the strength on the following day.

Lieutenants Thomas Cartman MC and John Hanchett Chadwick returned to duty on 11 September following recovery from wounds received at Heninel.

Returning to the southern Ypres line on 12 September the Battalion took over support positions near Torrekem Farm where working parties continued with the Royal Engineers each night.  Lieutenant Colonel J J Whitehead DSO was granted extended medidal leave in England from 16 September, leaving Major E Fearenside as Acting Commanding Officer and Major H T Pomfret as Second in Command. Acting Captain Harry Taylor was appointed Second in Command on 20 September in place of Major Pomfret who had been hospitalised.   Major Pomfret was subsequently transferred to 8th East Lancs on 26 September until he returned to the Battalion in January 1918.

Privates 48647 William Lewis Jackson and 51084 Robert Arnold were killed in action on 14 and 15 September respectively.  Lieutenant J H Chadwick became Acting Captain in command of a Company on 22 September and Acting Captain A C Carter reverted to the rank of Lieutenant.

The Battalion relieved 2nd Bedfords in the front line near Hollebeke, south of the Ypres Comines Canal on 22nd September.  Captain Alfred Coldrick Carter was severely wounded along with 19 Other Ranks. Six men were killed in the tour; Privates 203118 John Smith, 203100 Thomas Taylor, 42139 Robert Malcolm Free, 41619 Horace George, 43123 William Edward Humphreys and James Crane was missing presumed dead.  Private 43130 Widmer Barnes died of wounds at Bailleul.

Five Other Ranks arrived as reinforcements on 26 September along with Captain Paul Macdonald Little MC as the new Medical Officer (Commissioned RAMC 07/08/1916 and arrived France 19/02/1916 with MC on 26/09/1916), replacing Captain Robert Daniel Bridger (Disembarked Salonika 06/09/1915).

The Battalion was relieved on 1 October and went to Divisional Reserve at Vroilandhoek Camp as part of 8th Corps.

The War Diary mentions various commendations during the month of September that probably relate to deeds at Ypres on 31 July.  Privates 388875 Thomas Dunn and 43143 Charles Frederick Pascoe’s DCM awards were recorded on 15 September.  The other records for good work in the line or in the course of duty did not all relate to immediate awards, yet they may have formed part of subsequent commendations:-

Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Ernest George Woodward had been present with C Company at Ypres on 31 July as 2nd Lieutenant. The recognition may relate to events in late August.  Mentioned in Despatches (LG 18/12/1917) and received the MC (LG 30/01/1920).

2nd Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Alfred Coldrick Carter served with A Company at Ypres, as 2nd Lieutenant on 31 July and the award may relate to conduct in late August.

2nd Lieutenant Stanislaus Alfred Knowles had taken part in a successful trench raid on 13/14 June 1917 and was present in the advance on 31 July. Having returned to England sick on 3 September he relinquished his commission on 5 May 1918.

Company Sergeant Majors 8295 Frank Howard Silcock & 9126 Miles Blades MM, Sergeant 8105 Alexander Colquhoun and Corporal 9014 George Royle (Later DCM MM) were Mentioned in Despatches (LG 18/12/1917)

Sergeant 47291 Joseph Watts, Lance Corporal  8169 Richard William Hamer and 33403 James Joseph Pickavance (later MM) received no further immediate recognition.

17th Battalion arrived at Vroilandhoek Camp on 2 October and trained there until 11 October.  A number of replacement officers arrived for duty at the camp. These were 2nd Lieutenants Frank Valentine Harrison (An original member of 16th Bttn commissioned after wounds at Guillemont and returning to duty in France), Henry Owens (Commissioned from 24th (Sportsmans) Bttn Royal Fusiliers), Horace Taylor Prentis (Commissioned from 1/8th Liverpools), Frederick Charles Sturman (Commissioned from Royal Engineers), Joseph Alfred Woolen (Commissioned from Royal Marine Light Infantry), Kenrick Yorke-Jones (Manchester Grammar and Christ’s College, Cambridge).

Seven Other Ranks also joined for duty and Lieutenant John Lambert Clayton became Acting Captain on 5 October.

Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle 20 October 1917 Elwell EE 2

Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle 20 October 1917

Private 41614 Cyril Arthur Twinn died of wounds received at Heninel on 4 October and 2nd Lieutenant Ernest Edward Elwell (Officer in original contingent posted sick in Spring 1916) was killed in action attached to 21st Battalion on 6 October.

Private 38429 James Henry Entwistle died from disease as a Prisoner of War at Mons on 9 October.  Private 43154 James Brunton also died from disease in German captivity in Berlin on 20 October.

The Battalion moved to the line in Brigade Reserve on 11 October.  Major E Fearenside received notification of temporary promotion to Lieutenant  Colonel, effective 10 September, while being Commanding Officer. 2nd Lieutenants Charles Stanley Miles (effective 20 July to 30 September 1917) and Harry Taylor MC became

Suffolk and Essex Free Press 31 October 1917 Twinn C E

Suffolk and Essex Free Press 31 October 1917

Temporary Captains in command of a Company and Second in Command respectively. Harry Taylor was retrospectively promoted to Major with effect from 5 October, in orders published in December 1917. Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant 9050 George Frederick Vaughan Dalley (Verger of Manchester Cathedral) had assumed the duties of a commissioned rank on 9 March and became Honorary Lieutenant, effective 18 June 1917.

Second Lieutenants John Edwin Hatton (Commissioned 29 August 1917) and William Michael Harrison (Commissioned from Training Reserve) arrived for duty on 15 October with Second Lieutenant George Robert Barnes (Commissioned from Royal Engineers)  Frank Dunn (Commissioned from Training Reserve) and Charles Edward Hope (Commissioned from 2nd Royal Scots) on the following day.

From 18 to 30 October 17th Battalion joined Canadian Corps for railway work and carrying for the artillery near Goldfish Chateau, St Jean and Hellfire Corner, near Ypres.  Lieutenant Peter Shenton (Wounded 31 July 1917) returned to duty from 16th Battalion on 18 October and 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Cecil Chapman was posted to 914 Area Supply Company on 29 October.  He did not return to the Battalion.

Three men were lost in the field during November.  Private 41622 Thomas Lee and Sergeant 9116 William Joseph Wright were killed in action near Wieltje on 19 and 21 October respectively.  Private Ernest George Milverton was killed near Ypres on 29 October.

Returning to 8th Corps at Kemmel on 31st October and 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Parkes (Commissioned from Artists Rifles) joined 17th Battalion for duty.  During the month of October six Other Ranks had been wounded and left the Battalion. 2nd Lieutenant F V Harrison and one Other Rank had been wounded and remained at duty.

The month of November started with cleaning and training, including games, bayonet work and Lewis Gun teams. Working parties went to Torreken Farm.

The Battalion moved to Daylight Corner camp near Lindhoek on 8 November.  2nd Lieutenant George Dunscombe (Gallipoli veteran commissioned from the ranks of the Royal Irish Fusiliers) joined from Base on the next day.  A detachment of 3 officers and 58 Other Ranks arrived on attachment from 18th Battalion on 10 November.

The Battalion marched to Strazele on 11 November  where Inter-Company football matches were held.  2nd Lieutenants Frank Dunn and Alfred Parkes were transferred to 21st Battalion on 12 November.  17th Battalion proceeded to Steenvoorde on 14 November where training and sports resumed.

Major William Harold Colley (Pre-War officer in 3rd Yorkshires) was posted to the Battalion from 2nd Yorkshires as temporary Second in Command on 6 November.  Lieutenant  QM, G F V Dalley, rejoined from hospital the next day.

Lieutenant Colonel Fearenside went on leave to England and Major W H Colley (Attached from 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment 06/11/1917) took over temporary command.  Acting Major Harry Taylor MC proceeded to England to attend an Instructors Course at Aldershot.  He reverted to Captain in command of a Company with effect from 6 November. Acting Captain J L Clayton retained the Acting Rank of Captain having handed back the command of a company.  Lieutenant C S Miles became acting Captain on 3 November.

The Battalion suffered no deaths in November 1917.  2nd Lieutenant Frederick Charles Sturman had been admitted to Field Ambulance on 6 November.  He returned to duty for a week was later evacuated to England and did not return to the front. Four Other Ranks were wounded during the month. 2nd Lieutenant George Frederick Herrenden Harker joined for duty on 22 November.

On 24 November the Battalion marched to Chippawa Camp near Reninghelst.  They moved to Tor Top Tunnels where they were engaged with railway work.

The Battalion entered the British defences east of Ypres near the village of Gheluvelt, south of Polderhoek, on 30th November. Preparations were completed for the forthcoming assault on Polderhoek Chateau.  Lieutenant Colonel E Fearenside departed for a months leave in England and Major W H Colley took command.

The Battalion held support positions astride the Menin Road on 3 December during a successful advance by the Anzacs.   17th Battalion had suffered significant casualties more 20 men from B Company on the north side of the Menin Road. The roll of deaths on 3 December was Private 377783 W Crook, Lance Corporal 28054 J Day, Privates 27135 J Lusher, 38500 S E Taylor, 47328 E Tupman and Private 43201 E Wilkinson.  Lance Corporal G Smith with Privates 51107 and 303149 H Roberts died of wounds the next day and Private 39401 A Farthing died at 53rd Casualty Clearing Station on 6 December.

The Battalion was relieved and moved back to Chippewa Camp, near Reninghelst on 4 December.  Nine Other Ranks arrived for duty on 8 December.

Called up to reserve positions north of Ypres on 12 December, the Battalion sent C and D Companies to reinforce 18th Battalions defence of the line near Polderhoek on the 14th.  The Germans had taken back 300 yards of trench line gained by the Anzacs at the beginning of the month.  The detachment from 17th Battalion successfully regained a portion of trench evacuated by 18th Battalion along with Jericho Pill Box.

The Battalion departed Choppawa Camp and returned to the support line near Polderhoek on 12 December.  The Germans attacked on 14 December successfully taking back trenches and Jericho pill box that had been held by the 18th Battalion.  B and C Companies were in support of 18th Battalion and succeeded in occupying some of the trench line and the pill box.

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

Arthur Bell’s cousin Alf Ridge  was fatally wounded and captured by the German serving with 18th Battalion at Polderhoek in this action.

Although there is no confirmation of the date or place of his deed, the citation for 43403 CSM J E Young’s Distinguished Conduct Medal correlates with events on 14th December 1917. “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  Although badly shaken and partially buried by a shell which killed the man next to him, he remained at duty and together with a sergeant reconnoitered a communication trench leading to a pill box from which our men had driven.  His report was of the greatest assistance to the attacking party which captured the pill-box.  His example and cheerfulness are always inspiring.”

Private 51095 A Chinn was killed in action on 19 December. 56 Other Ranks arrived as reinforcements on 17 December with another 18 men arriving with Lieutenant Frederick Gilliat (Recovered from wounds on 01/07/1916) on 19 December.  2nd Lieutenant Frederick William (Commissioned in East Lancs from 20th (Public Schools) Royal Fusiliers had been struck off the strength due to ill health on 13 December.

Following withdrawal to Chippawa Camp on 18 December, the Battalion held early Christmas festivities on 21 December.   They had a Concert from the Blue Birds 30th Divisional Concert Party and Christmas Dinner was served to the other ranks by the officers on 23 December.

2nd Lt Philip Ward Courtesy Steve Ward

2nd Lt Philip Ward Courtesy Steve Ward

The Battalion returned to the line south of Polderhoek on 24th December.  Corporal 47353 G Murphy and Private 8250 G A Norman were killed on 25 December. 2nd Lieutenants Kenrick Yorke-Jones and   Private 51132 R C Silley were killed the next with Lieutenant Philip Ward killed in action 27 December, along with Privates 48775 R Butler and 54921 E A Pepworth..

Jones W T

2/Lt W Truran Jones (C) livesofthefirstworldwar

2nd Lieutenant John Frances Cottrell returned to duty following recovery from accidental wounding on 22 February 1916.  He was posted to C Company following his arrival on 25 December.

The Battalion was relieved on 30 December, when they withdrew to Tor Top and then billeted at Swan Chateau on 1 January 1918Lieutenant Colonel E Fearenside returned to take back command on 31 December.  Major W H Colley resumed duties as Second in Command and Captain C S Sadler reverted to Officer in Command of B Company.  The two subalterns had died during December along with eleven Other Ranks.  26 men had been wounded in the month, as well as 2nd Lieutenant G F Harker, who did not return to duty.

Many of the casualties for the autumn and winter have no known grave and their names are inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing,

For further contemporary photographs see Flanders

Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.  Steve may have found Lt Ward though?

Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

3 thoughts on “Ypres & Polderhoek – August to December 1917

  1. Pingback: Polderhoek Ypres – December 1917 | Of interest…

  2. Pingback: 1095 L/Cpl. Alfred A Ridge Manchester Regiment, Cousin – Died 21st January 1918 | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme

  3. Pingback: Centenary of the Somme – 9th day of July | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme

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