London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories

4th Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) - 2/4 Battalion on the Northern Ridges

4TH Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in the Great War 1914 - 1919

THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES

II. The 2 1 4th Battalion on the Northern Ridges

After the restricted success of the 16th August, the renewal of operations on a large scale was inevitably postponed for some time through the continuance of adverse weather conditions ; though in the north minor operations had the effect of widening and deepening the breach in the German defences in the neighbourhood of St Julien, combined with the capture of a good many prisoners. These local advances carried the British positions forward east of the St Julien-Poelcapelle Road and gave them a firm footing in the Gheluvelt-Langemarck line on both sides of the Ypres-Staden Railway.

The withdrawal of some of the divisions which had been engaged in the battle since the end of July being now necessary, the 58th Division was among the fresh divisions which were sent north to take part in the next large attack.

On the 24th August the 2/4th Londons marched from Izel-les-Hameau to Aubigny entraining for Hopoutre (Poperinghe), whence it marched to quarters in Dirty Bucket Camp, one of a series of camps near Vlamertinghe. The Division now became attached to the XVIII Corps (Maxse). The Battalion continued its training in the new area, paying a good deal of attention to intensive digging and musketry, and during the days spent in Dirty Bucket the company commanders and seconds in command attended a course of instruction at the XVIII Corps School at Volckeringhove.

On the night of the 28th/29th August the 58th Division entered the trenches, taking over with the 174th and 175th Brigades, the sector occupied by the 48th Division east of St Julien, the frontage extending from the Hanebeek on the right to the vicinity of Keerselare on the left. The sector was lightly held with one battalion of each brigade in the outpost line, one battalion on the Canal Bank and two in camps west of the Yser Canal.

The 173rd Brigade remained in Divisional reserve and continued training. The 2/4th Londons changed station on the last day of the month, moving to Browne Camp, about four miles north-east of Poperinghe. Here a further week's training was obtained, after which the whole of B Company spent four days at the Fifth Army Musketry Camp near St Omer. Nothing worthy of record occurred during this period except on the 1st September, when the transport lines were heavily shelled causing casualties to 26 N.C.O.'s and men, of whom 1 died of wounds, and to 13 horses, 8 being killed.

Reinforcements at this period included 2/Lieut. A. C. Knight (4th Londons) and 2/Lieut. W. D. Warren {19th Londons), and about 110 N.C.O.'s and men.

On the 9th September the 2/4th Londons moved forward to Reigersburg Camp, between Brielen and the Canal, and on the llth-13th August the 173rd Brigade took over the whole Divisional sector.

A warning order had now been issued as to the next attack which in view of the markedly improved conditions of weather had been arranged for the 20th September. The front of attack was more extended than on the 16th August, the southern limit being the Ypres-Comines Canal near Hollebeke, and the Ypres-Staden Railway north of Langemarck marking the northern extremity.

The success which had attended the enemy's resistance to our efforts to advance in the Menin Road region had pointed to the necessity of modifying the methods of attack. The successes obtained by the British Army on the Somme, at Arras and at Messines, had caused the Germans to alter their mode of defence, and instead of a strongly held trench line they now presented to our attacks a system of concreted machine-gun posts (" pill-boxes " " or Mebus ") disposed in great depth in front of their main line of resistance. This system supplied their defence with the elasticity which had hitherto been lacking, and the pillboxes, being sited with remarkable skill to develop the employment of enfilade fire to the fullest extent, proved a very serious obstacle to British assaulting columns, which frequently suffered severe casualties at their hands after making a deep advance into the enemy defensive system. The pillboxes were, moreover, of such enormously strong construction that nothing short of a direct hit by a heavy shell could put them out of action. The effect of our severe artillery preparation for attacks was therefore nullified, and the occupants of the pillboxes could only be ejected as a rule by hand-to-hand fighting with bombs.

This new feature in the fighting called for prompt measures on the part of the British, and henceforward no attempt was made as a rule to penetrate the enemy's pillbox system as long as any risk existed of leaving any of these hornets' nests undisposed of in rear of the advancing troops. In other words, the attacks were arranged with objectives much more limited than formerly, while the artillery paid more attention to the pillboxes, the ultimate capture of which formed the task of special units detailed for the purpose.

The assault arranged for the 20th September was prepared on these revised lines, and all ranks were impressed beforehand with the importance, not only of locating enemy strong points quickly and rushing them before their occupants had recovered from the British barrage, but also of methodical " mopping-up " and consolidation of all ground gained.

From the 9th September onwards the work of preparation for the impending offensive was pushed forward with all possible speed, the 2/4th Londons bearing a heavy share of these necessary duties. For four of the five nights spent at Reigersburg Camp a working party of the strength of two companies was engaged in completing the advanced cable line trench, while on the last night, the 13th, the whole Battalion less B Company (still at the Musketry Camp) was detailed for carrying various sorts of R.E. material forward to advanced dumps in readiness for consolidation of the position it was hoped to gain.

On the 14th the 2/4th Londons moved to a fresh position on the east side of the Yser Canal, and for four nights following, the whole Battalion was engaged in the desperate task of laying a duckboard track of double width in front of St Julien, as far forward as possible in the direction of the enemy positions, with the object of providing a means of communication in the forward -area, and of reinforcing or relieving the advanced troops after the assault should have been delivered.

This week of continual working parties was most exhausting to all concerned. The distance to be covered each night to and from the scene of the work was about three and a half miles in each direction, and the labour of the march was increased tenfold by the shocking condition of the ground, which was still waterlogged, and, away from the defined tracks, nothing but a series of lakes formed by shell craters full of water. Heavy as the cable line duties were found, the laying of the duckboard track during the latter half of the week proved still more onerous. Not only had the troops to march to St Julien from the Canal Bank, but the duckboards which were drawn from a dump at Alberta Farm had to be carried on the men's shoulders for some five hundred yards to the starting-point of the track. Progress was slow through the heavy going and the continual delays caused by German Very lights. Although some two hundred and forty yards were laid during the four nights' work, and the track was carried forty yards beyond our most advanced positions, the task was never completed. The work was obviously fraught with considerable risk of serious casualties owing to the large numbers of men employed, and in the circumstances the losses incurred during the week were light ; 11 men being hit on the 11th, while on the 15th 2/Lieut. Carlisle was killed and 2/Lieut. Pike wounded, with 2 men killed and 5 wounded.

On the night of the 18th the 2/4th Londons relieved the 2/3rd Londons in the line, which was still held by isolated posts, and the following evening assembly for the attack began at about 9 p.m.

The 55th Division front of attack was entirely north of the Hanebeek, a small stream which runs almost due east from St Julien, the attack south of the stream being undertaken by the 164th Brigade of the 55th Division. The 58th Divisional front was taken up by the 173rd Brigade on the right with the 174th on its left, the assaulting columns of the 173rd Brigade consisting of four companies, each 100 strong, of the 2/4th Londons. The 2/3rd Londons were in reserve to make a dummy attack, with one company on the waterlogged portions of the front over which no advance was possible.

The 2 /4th Londons' assembly position which was defined by tape lines laid down by the adjutant, Capt. A. Grover, was on the line Janet Farm-Springfield, and covered a front of some 800 yards. Almost in the centre of this front and some 400 yards from starting- point, lay a strongly fortified area around Winnipeg cross-roads. To the right of the cross-roads the whole area as far as the Hanebeek was waterlogged and impassable, while to the left a series of enemy strong points, notably at the Cemetery and Spot Farm seemed likely to cause a good deal of trouble to the attackers. The objective of the 2/4th Londons lay on an undefined line running roughly north and south about 100 yards beyond Winnipeg cross-roads. This marked the limit of the 173rd Brigade's task, though the objective of the day lay about 500 yards further east, its principal feature being a machine-gun nest in the Schuler Galleries in the vicinitv of the Hanebeek. The further advance to this final objective was entrusted to the 164th and 174th Brigades, who by a converging movement were to " squeeze out " the 2/4th Londons leaving them in occupation of what would become a line of supporting posts at the end of the day.

Before the assembly a preliminary reconnaissance of the terrain was carried out by the company commanders, and in connection with this Capt. Hetley writes :

I think all were impressed by the wonderful sight at Admirals Road. This unsavoury road ran parallel to the front about 1500 yards or more to the rear of St Julien and when passing over it on the duckboard track, there could be seen guns in such large quantities that there seemed to be very little greater interval than 150-200 yards between them in any direction — a really wonderful contrast to April 1915, when the Lahore Division was on exactly the same spot.

On the evening of the 19th September Brigade Head-quarters were established at Cheddar Villa, while the 2/4th Londons' Battle Headquarters opened in St Julien. The assembly was conducted by Capt. Grover and Lieut. Seys (Intelligence Officer) who were solely responsible for an operation which proved exceedingly difficult owdng to the still heavy state of the ground. So bad was the mud that men constantly sank to their knees, and in some cases touch could only be maintained by tying the men of each section together with tapes. In spite of these difficulties the 400 men were in position by 3 a.m. on the 20th without a hitch, and with practically no casualties, although the most advanced platoons were within 150 yards of the enemy positions. The assembly completed, the 2/3rd Londons who were holding the line withdrew a short distance to the rear.

The assault was delivered at 5.40 a.m. under cover of an intense creeping barrage wdiich proved to be excellent, and companies moved off in good order in the half light close up to the barrage. The companies were disposed as follow^s : on the right A Company (S. Davis) with two platoons and Headquarters of D Company (Stark) attached ; in the centre B Company (Hetley) ; and on the left C Company (Hewlett) with two platoons of D Company attached.

The principal resistance, as had been anticipated, was encountered in the neighbourhood of Winnipeg cross-roads, and at a pillbox which lay between them and the cemetery. This was most gallantly captured single-handed by Pte. Bolton, A Company, who bayonetted three of the occupants and captured the remainder consisting of an officer and three men. A slight check at the cross-roads produced a further small bag of prisoners, sixteen in number, of whom one w^as an officer. On the left the chief opposition was encountered at a pillbox some 300 yards east of Springfield which was holding up the advance of C Company and of the 174th Brigade on the left. 2/Lieut. F. W. Walker, quickly grasping the situation, outflanked the position with six men, and succeeded in rushing it, capturing two machine-guns and twenty men who were sent back under escort. Walker and the rest of his party at once pushing on to the objective where touch was gained with the 174th Brigade. Within half an hour the 2/4th Londons were established on their objective, the consolidation of which was promptly put in hand, while the flank brigades after a pause of half an hour pressed forward to their final objectives in accordance with the plan of attack.

The complete success of this operation was undoubtedly due to the careful provision which had been made in advance for the capture of strong points by specially detailed units who thus ensured the efficient " mopping-up " of all ground captured, while enabling the remainder of the assaulting column to keep well up to the barrage.

Owing to the known strength of Schuler Farm in the final objective, special arrangements had been made for the attack of this point, in conjunction with the 164th Brigade, by a strong platoon of D Company 2/4th Londons with which two tanks were to co-operate in an outflanking movement from the north. The earliest reports from this region indicated that the attack had been successful, but subsequent information made it clear that the first attack failed, partly owing to the non-arrival of the tanks which stuck fast in the mud, and partly owing to unexpected resistance met with at a machine-gun post some 150 yards in advance of the farm. The capture of this post, which produced 16 prisoners and 2 guns, cost the lives of 2/Lieut. Warren and the whole platoon except Sergt. Watson and 6 men. The delay caused, moreover, was serious, and by the time the survivors of the platoon were able to continue their advance, the barrage had passed beyond Schuler Farm. Sergt. Watson, being of opinion that the strength of his party was insufficient to justify an attack on the main position, sent back his prisoners and established himself with the captured machine-guns at a point about 250 yards south-east of Winnipeg cross-roads. The shell fire of the enemy during the advance and subsequent to the Battalion reaching its objective had been severe, and by this time not more than 100 rifles of the 2/4th Londons remained effective. Arrangements M'ere therefore made to stiffen its line with one company of the 2/3rd Londons. A further attack on Schuler Farm, to be undertaken by the 2 /3rd Londons, was organised for daybreak on the 21st.

At about three o'clock in the afternoon the enemy was observed to be advancing in fours against the brigade on our right, and the artillery was immediately called into action. In spite of heavy losses, however, the enemy continued to advance with praiseworthy courage until they deployed, when their morale appeared to break and their ranks rapidly melted under our shell fire.

During the remainder of the day a good deal of annoyance was caused by the continued sniping from Schuler Farm, of which the Germans remained in possession, but no further counter-attack developed on our front, and night fell with the 2/4th Londons' position intact. The casualties already suffered had been heavy, and three company commanders, Hewlett, Stark and Davis, had unluckily been hit, though the last was able to remain with his company until after relief the following evening, when having been wounded a second time he was evacuated.

The attack of the platoon of the 2/3rd Londons under 2/Lieut. Middlemiss on the 21st was postponed for further reconnaissance, in the course of which Middlemiss observed the garrison of Schuler Farm surrender to men of the 164th Brigade. Believing the situation to be clear he proceeded along the road, but was hit by fire from a post by the Hanebeek near that established by Sergt. Watson. Middlemiss' report, which was the first information obtained of the fall of Schuler Farm, caused the alteration of his platoon's objective to the pillbox from which he had been hit, but in the evening this was found to have been evacuated by its garrison, so that the whole position was now in our hands. During the evening of the 21st violent counter-attacks under cover of intense bombardments were delivered against the 164th and 174th Brigade sectors, but these were dispersed, and the 2 /4th Londons did not come into action though their newlj'^-dug trenches were almost obliterated by the German shell fire and many more casualties occurred.

At 9 p.m. on the 21st, the 2/4th Londons handed over their position, intact at all points, to the 2/9th Londons, and withdrew across the Yser Canal to Dambre Camp, where they remained training and reorganising for some days.

This was the most completely successful operation in which the 2 /4th Battalion had hitherto taken part, and indeed all along the line of the Fifth Army attack the new methods v/hich have been described met with marked success.

The outstanding achievements of the day were those of 2/Lieut. Walker, Sergt. Watson and Pte. Bolton, of which some description has already been given, but reference should also be made to the excellent work of Capt. S. Davis, whose clear grasp of situations and the accurate and complete information with which he kept Headquarters constantly supplied, were of great value ; of Pte. Austin, runner of A Company, who passed backwards and forwards several times with important messages through intense barrages ; of Pte. Bull, the only surviving stretcher-bearer of A Company, who displayed the greatest coolness and devotion in tending wounded men under heavy fire ; and Lieut. Altounjan, the medical officer, whose services were of the utmost value and carried out under exceedingly trying conditions.

Mention should also be made of Pte. Anthony of the Battalion Signallers who from an advanced point in the line established visual communication with Brigade Head-quarters, his station subsequently proving of great value to the supporting artillery.

On the evening of the 19th Brig.-Gen. Freyberg, V.C., D.S.O., was seriously hit on his way to Battle Head-quarters at Cheddar Villa ; but he insisted on remaining at duty, and directed operations from his stretcher, though wounded in ten places, until after news of the complete capture of the objective was received the next day, when his removal was insisted upon by the A.D.M.S. who came forward to fetch him. Command of the Brigade was taken temporarily by Lieut. -Col. Dann, D.S.O.

The following decorations were awarded after this action : 2/Lieut. F. W. Walker, the D.S.O. ; Capts. A. Grover and S. Davis, and Lieut. E. H. R. Altounyan, the M.C. ; Sergt. Watson, Ptes. Bolton, Austin, Anthony and Bull, the D.C.M. ; and Sergts. H. O. Wilderspin and F. W. Yandle, Ptes. J. W. Ling and A. Westcott, the M.M.

The casualties sustained during the action included :
2/Lieuts. H. N. Bundle, E. R. Seabury and W. D. Warren, killed ; 2/Lieut. F. B. Burd, died of wounds ; Capts. W. A. Stark, H. A. T. Hewlett and S. Davis, M.C, 2/Lieuts. D. S. Boorman, M. C. (at duty), A. J. Angel, W. F. Vines and A. C. Knight, wounded ; and 60 N.C.O.'s and men killed, 176 wounded and 29 missing.

The 58th Division remained in line after this attack, and on the 26th September took part in the third general attack which was delivered by the Second and Fifth Armies on a front of some six miles, of which the northern limit was the Divisional sector. The attack was delivered by the 175th Brigade and a further considerable success gained, the Divisional front having been carried forward in the operations since the 19th a total distance of about 1600 yards.

On the 27th September, the 2/4th Londons moved to Brake Camp, in the Vlamertinghe area. Two days were occupied in training here, during which the area in which the Battalion was located suffered on the night of the 28th/29th September the most prolonged and serious bombing by enemy aircraft it ever experienced, the bombardment lasting without cessation from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fortunately no casualties were sustained.

At Brake Camp the following joined the Battalion :

Capt. R. C. Dickins.

2/Lieuts. C. C. Gibbs, D. G. Spring, F. J. Jones, E. G. Gardner and A. W. Dodds (21st Londons) ; and 2/Lieut. S. J. Richardson (7th Londons).
2.50 N.C.O.'s and men.

Further casualties during September included Lieut., C. Potter and 2/Lieuts. O. H. Mattison and J. McDonald, to hospital.

2/Lieut. Cook was appointed to the 173rd L.T.M. Battery.

On the 30th September the 58th Division was withdrawn from the line and concentrated as Corps reserve for rest in the Nordausques area (eight miles north-west of St Omer), and the 2/4th Londons moved by rail from Vlamertinghe to Zouafques where they went into billets on the 1st October. The train was followed and bombed during the journey by German airmen, 1 sergeant and 2 men being killed.

During the period of the 58th Division's withdrawal from the line the offensive was pressed forward under adverse conditions of weather. The season was now becoming advanced and the condition of the ground offered a far greater obstacle to our progress than the enemy's resistance. Probably no series of battles of the whole war was waged under such persistently adverse conditions, or imposed a greater physical strain on the attacking troops. In every direction the salient was by now a series of " shell hole lakes " the ground being waterlogged and the mud more glutinous than ever. An increasing number of casualties to men and beasts occurred through drowning in the shell holes of this ghastly shell-battered inferno, but though the whole forces of the elements seemed to be arrayed against us, advances of enormous importance were achieved during the early part of October, as a result of which the Allied positions were pushed forward to the outskirts of Houthulst Forest, to the east of Poelcapelle and to within 2000 yards of Passchendaele.

The prolonged continuance of active operations was obviously becoming increasingly difficult, but G.H.Q. was impelled to pursue the course of this dreary offensive partly by reason of the serious situation caused on the Italian front by the defeat of Caporetto at the end of October, and partly by the need of containing as many German divisions as possible during the preparations for the Cambrai battle, which were not yet complete.

2/4TH BATTALION ON NORTHERN RIDGES

The 2/4th Londons remained at Zouafques training and reorganising for over three weeks. Several drafts were received from the Base, which together made the considerable addition of 244 N.C.O.'s and men to the Battalion strength, thus bringing it above its numbers prior to the action of the 20th September.

On the 15th October the Battalion was joined by 2/Lieut. H. G. Langton ; and by 2/Lieuts. H. A. Snell, J. R. Naylor and R. J. Richards (1st Londons). During this period also 2/Lieuts. H. E. English and C. C. H. Clifford were evacuated sick. Capt. S. H. Stedman was posted to the 173rd Brigade Labour Company at Louches.

On the 23rd October the 2/4th Londons returned by train to the Vlamertinghe area and took over quarters in Siege Camp, moving the following day to the concentration area on the canal bank, whence the battle surplus under 2/Lieut. Askham left the Battalion for the Divisional Depot Battalion.

On the 25th October, Major W. A. Nunneley, second in command of the Battalion since July 1916, fell sick and was evacuated to hospital, his duties being taken over by the adjutant, Capt. A. Grover, M.C. Major Nunneley was subsequently appointed to command the German officers' Prisoners of War Camp at Donington Hall. Capt. Grover, M.C, was succeeded in the Adjutancy by Lieut. F. W. Walker, D.S.O. On the 22nd 2/Lieut D. G. Spring was seconded to the XX Corps School as Instructor.

The operation in which the 173rd Brigade was detailed to take part was arranged for the 26th October, and consisted of an attack on a frontage from the Ypres-Roulers Railway (south of Passchendaele) to beyond Poelcapelle. The task of the 173rd Brigade, who were flanked on the right by the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division and on the left by the 57th Division, was to carry forward the British line east of Poelcapelle for some 700 yards in a due easterly direction astride the Poelcapelle- Westroosebeeke Road. The Divisional frontage was some 1800 yards in length, and bounded on the north by the Poelcapelle-Staden Road and on the south by the Lekkerbotebeek.

The assaulting troops were provided by the 2/2nd, 2/3rd and 2/4th Londons, while the 2/lst Londons were in Brigade reserve, with two battalions of the 174th Brigade concentrated in the old German trench system near St Julien, also at the disposal of the 173rd Brigade.

The first objective, which was on the line Spider Cross-roads-Moray House, was to be taken by the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Battalions, while after a pause of 45 minutes, the 2/4th Londons were to " leapfrog " through them on to the second and final objective.

As in the September action, particular preparation was made for the assault of all known pillboxes by special parties, and the system of posts to be established by each company was carefully and definitely decided beforehand. The whole strength of the Battalion was necessary to cover the wide frontage allotted to it, the order of battle from the right being D Company (C. A. Clarke), C Company (Boorman), B Company (Hetley) and A Company (Dickins). In addition to the stipulated frontage the Battalion was also held responsible for some 200 yards of waterlogged ground near the Lekkerbotebeek on its right, over which touch with the 63rd Division could not be actively maintained.

The attack was to be delivered under a creeping barrage supported by heavy guns, machine-guns and smoke barrages, w^hile look-out for enemy counter-attacks was to be maintained by aeroplanes.

On the morning of the 25th the 2/4th Londons left Siege Camp in battle order and moved forward to positions in the original front German system where they remained until the afternoon. At 3 p.m. the forward move was resumed, and the Battalion was com.pletely assembled in its allotted area immediately east of Poelcapelle by 10.15 p.m., Battalion Headquarters being established at Gloster Farm.

The weather had for some days past sho^^Tl a marked improvement, and the ground over which the advance w^as to be made was reported to be drying fast. But our much-tried troops could not escape their usual fate in the matter of weather, for on the night of the 25th rain fell pitilessly once more, filling up the shell holes, liquefying the mud and drenching everyone to the skin. All movement was rendered a matter of extraordinary difficulty, and when the time for the attack arrived the assaulting columns could scarcely drag themselves forward.

The British front line being composed of a line of unconnected posts, the actual " jumping-off " line was defined by tapes which made it essential to attack before daybreak. At 5.30 a.m. the British barrage came doAMi, and the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Battalions followed by the 2/4th began their laborious advance. The barrage was disappointing, for not only was it not as well distributed as on former occasions, but, having regard to the state of the ground, it advanced far too quickly so that the assaulting troops were soon left far behind.

The 2/2nd Londons were succeesful in capturing four pillboxes of which three were at Cameron Houses, about half-way to the first objective, while the 2/3rd Londons on the left pushed forward to what was at the time believed to be Spider cross-roads, but was probably a less important road junction some 250 yards short of it. The line of this cross-road and Cameron Houses was, however, the limit of the advance, which was unsupported on the left owing to the adjoining division on that flank having been held up. The only post taken by the 2/4th Londons was Tracas Farm on the extreme right.

The men were now thoroughly exhausted by their efforts, and were practically defenceless as the mud had choked rifles and Lewis guns, and rendered them temporarily useless. Indeed, for over half an hour the Battalion possessed hardly a single rifle which could be fired. At this juncture the cnem.y counter-attacked in great force both at Cameron Houses and on the unsupported left flank, and his attack, as was to be expected in the circumstances, was successful, and our troops were driven back with severe loss to the assembly line where the enemy's advance was finally held.

After their rough handling of the morning it was clear that the attacking battalions could not pursue the offensive or remain in the line, and arrangements were accordingly made for their relief, on the south of the Poelcapelle-Westroousebeek Road by the 2/lst Londons and on the north of it by the 2/7th Londons, The rehef was completed by 10.15 p.m., and the 2/4th Londons returned to Siege Camp.

In other parts of the line greater success was achieved this day, notably in the vicinity of Passchendaele where the Canadians captured all their objectives, and on the extreme left in the area held by the French.

The 26th October must be regarded as one of the most unfortunate days ever experienced by the 2/4th Londons. The gallantry of officers, N.C.O.'s and men alike left nothing to be desired, and their defeat was at the hands of the elements far more than of the Germans. So bad indeed was the state of the ground that not a few men becoming stuck in the mud and exhausted by their efforts to extricate themselves, met their death by drowning in the flooded shell holes.

For their good work on this day decorations were awarded to Capt. C. A. Clarke (the M.C.) and Pte C. H. W. Roberts (the D.C.M.).

The casualties sustained in this unfortunate affair were in officers : 2/Lieuts. F. J. Jones, H. G. Langton and J. R. Naylor, killed ; 2/Lieut. R. J. Richards, died of wounds ; Capts. R. C. Dickins and D. S. Boorman, M.C, 2/Lieuts. G. E. Lester, R. Michell, H. A. Snell and A. W. Dodds, wounded ; and in N.C.O.'s and men 25 killed, 214 wounded and 109 missing — a total of 359 all ranks. This was the most costly single day in the history of the 2/4th Battalion.

The 2/4th Londons spent five days at Brake Camp cleaning up, resting and reorganising, moving on the 1st November to Roads Camp, and on the following day to St Jans-ter-biezen, about four miles west of Poperinghe. The Battalion was now reduced to an organisation of one company for fighting purposes, pending the arrival of further reinforcements to fill the gaps created on the 26th October. On the 6th November a further move was made to P Camp near Peselhoek, north of Poperinghe, and here the Battalion remained for eight days, all of which were occupied in training except for three working parties of 100 N.C.O.'s and men under Capt. Hetley who proceeded to Gwent Farm for stretcher-bearing duties.

A further attempt was made by the 175th Brigade on the 30th October to complete the unfulfilled task of the 26th, but again the state of the ground rendered the operation abortive. On the higher ground, however, Canadian troops again achieved some success, and by the 6th November had captured Passchendaele.

Thus was this stupendous offensive brought to a close. It had been maintained for three and a half months under conditions of unprecedented difficulty, and at enormous cost in personnel. Having regard to the obstacles which were encountered at every step the achievement was magnificent, and had served a definite purpose in the War, not only by securing positions on the high ground for the winter, but also by assisting our French and Italian Allies at a period when, especially in the case of the latter, any operation which could relieve the pressure on their front was of vital importance.

On the 15th November the Division was concentrated in Corps reserve, and the 2/4th Londons moved to Piccadilly Camp in the Proven area.

The 2/4th Londons now spent a prolonged period out of the battle area ; occupying billets successively, after leaving Piccadilly Camp, at Coulemby on the 26th November, at Bellebrune and Cremarest (about twelve miles west of St Omer) from the 27th November to the 9th December, and at Soult Camp near Brielen, to which the Battalion moved on the last-mentioned date in anticipation of returning to the trenches.

This period of training passed with the usual routine of " back-of-the-line " training in drill, musketry, bombing, route marching and games, interspersed with highly welcome entertainments given by the Divisional concert troop " The Goods." Advantage was taken of the time spent in rest to refill the gaps in the Battalion's ranks, and an excellent opportunity was afforded of assimilating the newly-received drafts as they arrived and before they were called upon to go into action. These drafts totalled 213 N.C.O.'s and men, but even with this accession of strength the 2/4th Londons still remained considerably weaker than prior to the recent action.

Officer reinforcements were more numerous in proportion, and included :

Lieuts. H. J. M. Williams and G. E. Lester.
2/Lieuts. R. W. Chamberlain, E. P. Higgs and L. H. Sheppard.
2/Lient. F. B. Johnson (13th Londons).
Lieut. F. J. Griffiths, 2/Lieuts. F. E. Norrish, F. G. Williams, W. H. G. Newman and W. Blair (20th Londons).
2/Lieuts. S, H. Jehu and J. R. Peryer (21st Londons).
Lieut. O. A. Sampson (25th Londons).
Lieuts. E. R. Howden and J. Cairns (A.S.C.).

On the 16th/17th December the 173rd Brigade took over the whole Divisional sector, which constituted the left of the II Corps front, from the Lekkerbotebeeke on the right to the Broemibeek, a small stream close to the Ypres-Staden Railway on the left. The Corps line was in practically the same position as on the occasion of the Battalion's last visit to this area, and ran roughly north and south in front of Poelcapelle, and about 500 yards east of the Poelcapelle -Houthulst Road. The front line, which was occupied in a series of isolated shell hole posts, which were being strengthened and linked up to each other as opportunity offered, was held b}^ two battalions, with support battalions in the captured German trenches around Langemarck and Pilckem.

The 2/4th Battalion took over from the 2/lOth Londons the left support position in Eagle and Candle Trenches on the 16th December, thus covering a depth of about 3500 yards. The ground between the forward and rear companies was a quagmire of battered trenches, and work was immediately necessary to attempt to reduce the chaos of the defensive system to something approaching cohesion. After five quiet days in these positions the Battalion moved forward to the left front positions, relieving the 2/3rd Londons on the 20th December with three companies in line and one in support. Headquarters were at Louis Farm.

With the exception of an attack against our left company which was attempted under a severe barrage on the afternoon of the 22nd, and which was effectually dispersed. the tour passed quietly and the Battalion was reHeved on the 24th December by the 2/lOth Londons, and concentrated at Battle Siding (Brielen), entraining there for Elverdinghe. Casualties were 2/Lieut. Jehu and 10 N.C.O.'s and men wounded and shell-shocked.

A week at Bridge No. 1 Camp, occupied for the most part in training and bathing, was enlivened by the Christmas festivities, for which such provision as was possible had been made, the outstanding feature being the production by " The Goods " of their famous pantomime, " The Babes in the Wood," which proved an immediate and enormous success.

New Year's Day 1918 found the Battalion once more in left support positions in Whitemill, Eagle, Bear and Candle Trenches, with Headquarters in dugouts at Lange-marck which rejoiced in the name of Pig and Whistle. Five days of peaceful trench work here were succeeded by an uneventful tour in the front line positions, and on the 8th January the Battalion handed over its trenches to the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers preparatory to the withdrawal of the whole Division. Concentrating on relief at Bridge No. 1 Camp the Battalion moved the following day to School Camp, Proven, where a few days' rest was obtained. The G.O.C. II Corps here presented ribands to those who had recently been decorated.

Officer reinforcements at this period were :

27th December — 2/Liex^ts. P. J. Payne, N. A. Brown and V. O. Prince.
10th January— 2/Lieuts. S. F. G. Mears, E. M. Cuthbertson, S. C. Geering and G. 0. Ewing.

Early in January Lieut. D. C. Cooke went to hospital and the medical officer, Lieut. Altounyan, M.C. (wounded), was replaced by Lieut. C. E. Dunaway, U.S. Army.

On the 21st January the 2 /4th Londons finally left the Ypres area after nearly five months of hard work in it, and the 58th Division was transferred to the III Corps (Pulteney) in the Fifth Army which had now removed to the extreme south of the British lines.

In recognition of their good work in these actions, all " other ranks " of the Battalion were subsequently granted permission to wear a small grenade — similar to that worn as a cap badge, but smaller — on the corners of the tunic collar.

This closes the regiment's connection with the Ypres Salient, the scene of so much hardship and suffering, but at the same time of so much gallantry and devoton to duty. Ypres occupies a position in the estimation of the Empire which is challenged by no place in which British troops served in the War ; and it must be for ever a source of pride to the regiment that it was privileged to take part in the second and third battles for its liberation from the Germans.