Spoil Bank, Ypres – April 1918

At the beginning of April 1918, the 17th Battalion moved to Busseboom, west of Ypres, via Woincourt, Proven, St Sixte and Elverdinghe.  A and B Companies were combined to form C Company 16th Battalion and C and D made up D Company.  The combined Battalion took over the front line near Spoil Bank and Lock 8 of the Ypres-Comines Canal.

On the 25th April the German attacked and forced the Battalion south of the canal, but a counter attack restored position.   In thick mist on the 26th, the Enemy broke through the positions on the Manchesters’ left and completely enveloped the composite D Company.

The survivors of the other composite C Company were withdrawn to the North bank of the canal, suffering heavy casualties. This line was held during two subsequent days of fighting.

On the 29th April the Battalion was withdrawn to Scottish camp and the remaining few members of 17th Battalion were attached to the 2nd Yorkshire Regiment.

Thirty seven members of 17th Battalion lost their lives in April and May 1918, some of whom will have resulted from fatal wounds from prior action, particularly the withdrawal from St Quentin.

2702 Private Fred Stafford was awarded a Military Medal in the Ypres action where he lost his life.  2nd Lieutenant George Leach MM was another fatality who had received the award.  Records indicate the Medal was awarded prior to his commission with the Manchester Regiment, when he served as 200491 Corporal in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  He left behind a widow, Mrs Jane Ann Leach in Chorley.

Private J J Pickavance 33403 and Lance Corporal C Turner 47317 received Military Medals in the April defence.  Soon after Private J W Walker 203202 received the same Award for Ypres, or earlier action.

Sergeant William Brookes  11760 was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal  for preventing the Battalion being outflanked at Ypres.   The same Award was issued to Lance Corporal Charles F Carter 9323, for brave action as a runner and Private Robert Allen 27318 as a stretcher bearer.

For the Ypres or earlier actions the DCM was gazetted to Sergeant John Curran MM 38544, CSM Benjamin Green 51290 and Lance Sergeant  George Royle 9014.

8 thoughts on “Spoil Bank, Ypres – April 1918

  1. Piers Martin

    Captain Donald Budenberg died leading the successful counter attack on the Spoilbank on the 25th April, his family will visit his grave on the 100th anniversary.

    1. 8055bell Post author

      Hi Peirs,
      I’m delighted to hear from you. Donald Budenberg has captured my imagination and I’ve written a Centenary post focussing on him, with the other losses at Lock 8. I’ve used some of Jonathan French’s photos (with acknowledgement) without asking – so you can ask him for me please.
      I’ve followed each centenary event since 2nd September 2014, on the anniversary of the formation of 17th Battalion. I followed my Grandad’s footsteps on 1st July 2016 and tried to keep up with subsequent action. 25th April 2018 is the centenary of last occasion the Battalion went over the top in any force. Donald led the counter-attack at Lock 8. It also effectively marked the end of the Battalion. You will have a poignant experience and I wish I could join you. I’m actually taking a group there in July – purely for my interest. rather than theirs.
      If you have more details of Donalds’s education, military history and family life, please let me know. Does the famiy have medals or other records? I’ll be picking up a copy of his service file in the not to distant future and will let you have a copy. My long term project is a review of the background of the Battalion officers. Donald’s German parents are intriguing and any other background would be great.
      Are you aware that one of Donald’s cousins, Dorothea married one of his fellow officers? You may have more 17th Battalion officers in your genes?
      Enjoy your trip

      (Very jealous – but need to make a living…)

    2. 8055bell Post author

      Hi Piers,
      I’d be delighted to post some centenary photos of your pilgramage if you’d like? I’ll send my email if you wish.

  2. Piers Martin

    Hi Tim, Donald’s father Fred was German and threatened with internment he persuaded the government that only he could run his company, and that it was crucial to the war effort. Even though two sons were Army officers, he was considered an alien and a man from the ministry supervised his every move at work for 4 years, and when hostilities ended the firm was auctioned, and Fred had to buy it back! He was a highly intelligent man and Donald was said to be the brightest of his children and a gentle soul. His older brother Chris was an officer in the Royal Engineers and survived the war but never spoke to his children about it. Donald was educated at Clifton College and spoke fluent German, he once saw Haig and forgot to salute him, a staff officer summoned him, but because Haig was also an Old Cliftonian he was not put on a charge. He spent time each leave visiting families of casualties from the regiment, and he unveiled a memorial in Marple Church to his best friend and cousin Bernard Hartley in November 1916 after being killed on night patrol in no-mans-land. Bernard and Donald could both identify enemy units by their accents and conversations, so they were often sent on night patrols Donald’s party trick was to walk into the officers dugout, put on the record that they least liked and slip out unnoticed before howls of ‘who put that on?’ – so he had a sense of humour. Donald’s parents visited the spoilbank and his grave in 1919 with my grand-father aged 14, they never revisited, my grand-father and I made only the second family visit in 1990, when he asked me to revisit on the centenary.

    1. 8055bell Post author

      Wonderful seemless history that makes me feel this project is more worthwhile. Thanks for posting and enjoy your day.
      I’d like to have seen the Staff Officer’s face when Haig let him off.

  3. Roger Sharp

    This project has meant so much to our family. For the first time, we have been able to see what my grandfather went through and how he won the MC + Bar, something he would never talk about after the war. To discover he was Bert Brown’s C/O (killed on 23/03/1918, and whose story is told in detail on the site) was an emotional moment, as was reading the letters he wrote to the family. The battle of Manchester Hill was something we knew very little of, and to see the map of the disposition of forces was horrible. It must have been terrifying. . To find out first hand what happened was very humbling. To then have to continue the fight in Ypres just weeks later must have been awful.

    1. 8055bell Post author

      Brave man! He fought in the Somme with 18th KLR. Passchaendale as a new officer with 17th Manchesters. Then Spring Offensive and Ypres in 1918 with 90th TMB.

  4. Pingback: Private 8071 Thomas Brooks and his Pals | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme

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