A/Captain John Oliver McElroy 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Captured at Polderhoek 14th December 1917

Source: Captain John Oliver McELROY The Manchester Regiment. | The National Archive

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

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
Manchester Regiment

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



Yorkshire Trench, Boezinge, Ypres

On our recent trip to the Western Front we look at this preserved trench and dugout  located in an industrial estate north of Ypres.  Certainly worth popping in to see.

Centenary of the 17th Manchesters Battle of Arras – Heninel 23rd April 1917

Source: Arras, Hindenburg Line – Heninel 23rd April 1917

43365 Robert Ramsey Died of Wounds 18/4/1917. 17th Manchesters transferred from Royal Fusiliers

Commemorating Robert Ramsey who died on this day in 1917.  The CWGC replaced his headstone and his great great nephew provided the updated photo.

Sadly Matt and I both failed to advise CWGC on the date of Robert’s death being April and not March.  Lesson learned to advise CWGC as soon as I see an error.

Source: 43365 Robert Ramsey Died of Wounds 18/4/1917. 17th Manchesters transferred from Royal Fusiliers

Livens Flame Projectors at Breslau Trench

Less than a mile from the Manchester Pals assault on Montauban, this horrific weapon was used on mine trench, near the Carnoy Craters.
“One shot was fired from each gun in No 7 and No 10 saps; the flames reached well over the enemy’s trenches in each case. The moral effect on the enemy undoubtedly was very pronounced, for whom the infantry attack took place, the casualties were very much less in the width of front covered by the flame than in the flanks.

Clouds of black smoke and flame rose a hundred feet into the sky before descending upon the unfortunate Bavarians. It was a horrific death for those German sentries in Mine Trench who were incinerated by these jets of burning oil. Their charred remains were later found.

2nd Lieutenant R.W. Stewart, Royal Engineers, reported that soon after the Livens Flame Projector (here using the German term for these weapons) was deployed, fifty German soldiers immediately surrendered:

The large flammenwerfer on the west of the craters proved a great success and very little resistance was met on that side. Had there been another flammenwerfer on the East, possibly the assaulting party would have been able to get in equally easily.”

Weapons and Warfare

Livens Flame Projector

British objectives for 1 July 1916 with front sector allocated to XV Corps.

The Livens Flame Projector was one of the most horrific weapons of the war, instilling terror and amongst those that faced it. It was deployed along the sector held by the 55th Brigade opposite Breslau Trench. Invented by Captain William Livens from the Royal Engineers these weapons were meant to shake the confidence of and terrorise the enemy. The aim was to keep German troops below the parapets long enough to enable British infantry to cross No Man’s Land and get into their trenches without being fired upon. Livens was in command of a secret unit known as Z Section, Royal Engineers, which focused its energies on designing long-range flamethrowers.

The Livens Flame Projector required seven men to operate and these devices were buried underground in shallow tunnels – Russian saps – where they…

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