London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories
The First Seven Divisions - Zwartelen in 1914
Being a Detailed Account of the Fighting from Mons to Ypres
Author: Ernest W. Hamilton
November 6th saw a certain renewal of the enemy's activity. The day opened very
foggy, but by eleven o'clock there was a bright sun. In the morning the French
once more re-took Wytschate and Messines, but again found them untenable, and in
fact this was the last attempt on the part of the Allies to occupy either of
these two places.
The respite of the poor 22nd Brigade from the trenches was short-lived, and the
evening of the 6th saw them once more hurried up into the firing line. This came
about in the following way. The French had now taken over all our trenches as
far north as the Brown Road, our own troops being pushed up to the left. North
of the French were the Irish Guards, and, beyond them, the 2nd Grenadiers. The
French troops, who had so far held their ground with splendid tenacity, now
found the position more than they could support. The German bombardment, with
which they as usual opened the day, was more than usually severe, and lasted the
whole morning, and about 2 p.m. it was followed by an infantry attack before
which the left of the French and the right of the Irish Guards was driven in. As
a result of this cave in the line, the left of the Irish Guards, which remained
in the trenches, suffered considerably, Lord John Hamilton, Captain King-Harman
and Lieut. Woodroffe being killed. An urgent message was sent to Gen. Kavanagh
to bring up the 7th Cavalry Brigade, who were in readiness near Lord Cavan's
Head Quarters behind Zillebeke, and the 22nd Brigade was also wired for to come
up from Bailleul. The cavalry came galloping up to Zillebeke, where they
dismounted and advanced on foot along and astride of the road from Zillebeke to
Zwartelen, which runs along the foot of the ridge ending in Hill 60. Just short
of Zwartelen they deployed, the 1st Life Guards on the left being told off to
restore the Irish Guards' position, while the 2nd Life Guards attacked the
position from which the French had been driven. The Blues were behind the centre
of the line in support.
The 1st Life Guards, under the Hon. A. Stanley, attacked the lost trenches of
the Irish Guards with the greatest vigour, and within an hour had regained, at
the point of the bayonet, the whole of the position lost. The Hon. A. Stanley
received the medal for Distinguished Service for his conduct on this occasion,
as did also Corpl. Baillie and Corpl. Fleming. Sergt. Munn, of the Irish Guards,
also got the D.C.M. for rallying some men of his battalion and joining in the
charge of the 1st Life Guards.
In the meanwhile the Hon. Hugh Dawnay, commanding the 2nd Life Guards, sent off
"B" Squadron to connect up with the right of the 1st Life Guards and clear the
wood on the Klein Zillebeke ridge. "D" Squadron was sent off to cover the right
flank of the whole combined movement by advancing along the edge of the Ypres to
Armentières railway, which is separated from the wood by about 500 yards of open
ground; while Major Dawnay himself, with "C" Troop, attacked the village of
Zwartelen, with the Blues under Col. Wilson on his left, and some 300 of the
French, who—encouraged by the advance of the Household Cavalry—had reformed, on
his right, that is to say, between him and "D" Squadron on the railway.
The whole scheme worked admirably. The attack by "B" Squadron on the Klein
Zillebeke ridge wood was entirely successful, the enemy being driven out with
loss and pursued for several hundred yards. The attack on Zwartelen—though
perhaps a more formidable undertaking—was no less successful. The village was
very strongly held, the houses in and around being occupied and defended, and
the Household Cavalry's advance was met by a heavy rifle fire which caused many
casualties, both Col. Wilson and Major Dawnay being killed while leading their
respective regiments. In spite of heavy losses, however, the cavalrymen, with
great steadiness and determination, pressed home their attack, and, at the point
of the bayonet, carried the village and captured a number of prisoners, "C"
Troop of the 2nd Life Guards afterwards pushing right through and occupying the
trenches in the wood on the far side of the village. Lieut. Stewart-Menzies,
Corpl. Watt, Corpl. Moulsen and Corpl. Anstice were all decorated for their
gallantry during this brilliant performance on the part of "C" Troop. The latter
N.C.O. displayed the greatest courage throughout the fight.
The success of the counter-attack was now to all appearances complete, all the
ground lost in the morning having been regained. At this moment, however, the
French on the right of "C" Troop again gave way, leaving a gap into which the
enemy at once pressed. The position of "C" Troop was now greatly imperilled, and
General Kavanagh ordered the Blues, and "B" Squadron of the 2nd Life Guards, to
cross the Verbranden Molen road to its support. This was done, the Blues moving
to the right and occupying Zwartelen and Hill 60, and in these several positions
the combined force continued to fight out time; but some of the ground which had
been regained had to be abandoned.
The situation was saved by the arrival about 6 p.m. of the 22nd Brigade, which
had been hurried up from Bailleul in motor-buses. This brigade now took over the
Household Cavalry position at Zwartelen, while the 2nd King's Royal Rifles
(60th), from the 2nd
Brigade, relieved the squadron of the 2nd Life Guards which was holding the
railway on the right flank.
The Household Cavalry earned the very highest praise for their performance on
this afternoon. They were handled with great skill by General Kavanagh, and the
daring and dash of their advance undoubtedly averted what might have proved a
very serious calamity. They lost seventeen officers during their advance, as
In the 1st Life Guards the Hon. R. Wyndham (attached from the Lincolnshire
Yeomanry) was killed and the Hon. H. Denison, the Hon. E. Fitzroy and Captain
Hardy were wounded.
In the 2nd Life Guards the Hon. H. Dawnay, the Hon. A. O'Neill and Lieut.
Peterson were killed and the Hon. M. Lyon, Lieut. Jobson, Lieut. Sandys and 2nd
Lieut. Hobson were wounded.
In the Blues, Col. Wilson and Lieut. de Gunzberg were killed, and Lord Gerard,
Lord Northampton and Captain Brassey were wounded.
The enemy's bombardment of the morning, and the infantry attack of the afternoon
which followed, had by no means been confined to the area the loss and recapture
of which has just been described. The 2nd Grenadiers, on the left of the Irish
Guards, were as heavily attacked as any, but they succeeded in maintaining their
ground throughout both morning and afternoon. Sergt. Thomas, who as Corpl.
Thomas had so distinguished himself at Chavonne, once again showed the material
of which he was made. His trench was subjected to a most appalling shelling.
Only two of his platoon remained unwounded; he himself had twice been buried and
the flank of his trench was exposed, but even in this apparently impossible
position he held on, and was still in proud occupation of his trench when the
arrival of the 7th Cavalry Brigade and 22nd Brigade once more drove back the
enemy. Sergt. Holmes and Corpl. Harrison in the same battalion also greatly
At daybreak on the 7th, in the dull, misty atmosphere of a November morning, the
22nd Brigade deployed for an attempt to regain the position of the day before.
This brigade, owing to its depleted condition, was now reduced to two composite
battalions, the R. Welsh Fusiliers and 2nd Queen's being amalgamated into one
battalion under the command of Captain Alleyne of the Queen's, and the Warwicks
and S. Staffords into the other, under the command of Captain Vallentin of the
S. Staffords. It is worthy of note that the brigade could furnish no officers of
higher rank than a Captain; also that both the officers above-named fell on the
second day of their command, Captain Alleyne being badly wounded and Captain
Vallentin killed. The latter was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for the
great gallantry he had displayed in the command of his composite battalion.
The brigade deployed in four lines, of which the first two were formed by the
2nd Queen's, who now numbered about 400. In this formation they advanced till
within 300 yards of the enemy's position, when the first two lines joined up and
charged. In spite of a heavy machine-gun fire, which still further reduced the
400, the Queen's charged right home and in rapid succession carried first one
and then a second line of trenches, the defenders being all bayoneted or put to
flight. The second of these two positions—the same, in fact, as had been
captured by the 2nd Life Guards the day before—proved to be too far ahead of the
general line and had to be abandoned, as it was persistently enfiladed by
machine-gun fire from a farm-house on the left; but the first line was
successfully held till night, when the battalion was relieved. During this
charge of the Queen's Lieut. Haigh was killed and Captain Alleyne, Captain
Roberts, Lieuts. Lang-Browne, Collis and Pascoe were wounded. Three machine-guns
The 22nd Brigade was now reduced to four officers, that is to say, one to each
battalion, and at night they were finally relieved, and allowed to return to the
retirement from which they had been so rudely summoned.
During this same day there was some severe fighting in the Polygon wood, the
Connaught Rangers being driven back and their trenches captured. The flank of
the Coldstream Brigade thus became threatened, and for a time the position
promised to be serious, but the 6th Brigade on the Zonnebeke road came to the
rescue, the lost trenches were regained, and the continuity of the line once
The morning of the 8th saw a renewal of the attempt to break through along the
Menin road. At the first assault the French and two companies of the Loyal N.
Lancashire Regiment in the first line were driven back, and the flank of the 1st
Scots Guards became exposed. As a result the enemy was able to rake the trenches
of the latter regiment with machine-guns and their casualties were heavy, Lieuts.
Cripps, Stirling-Stuart, Monckton and Smith being killed. The battalion,
however, held on till the morning position was once more restored by the two
reserve companies of the Loyal N. Lancashires, who, counter-attacking with great
spirit and determination, drove back the enemy from the position they had