Polygon Wood and Gheluvelt – a 3 part blog that will be posted this week to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele – one of the bloodiest of World War One
The Manchester Regiment Record book at Archives Plus, gives a detailed account of the movements of the Manchester Regiment 21st (Service) Battalion. The record includes names of officers who were killed, those who received medals and details officers from other regiments who fought alongside the Manchesters. One of the books is currently on display in the Archives+ exhibition space at Central Library.
What follows is a transcription of the record written at Polygon Wood and Gheluvelt.
‘During the month of September there were frequent moves. Ouderdom was left on the 1st for Steenvoorde. Caestre was reached on the 2nd, and Wallon-Cappel on the 3rd. On the 5th the battalion marched to Le Nieppe. The 15th found it in billets in the area about Moringhem, where various forms of training were carried out. The battalion left Moringhem on the 27th for St. Pierre, in the Elnes-Wavrans area. The following day found it at Arques, where it entrained for Boeschepe, marching thence to camp at St. Hubertshoek.
At dawn upon October 4th, under every possible disadvantage of ground and weather, the general attack was renewed, the troops advancing against the main line of the ridge east of Zonnebeke – a frontage of about seven miles.
The Seventh Division was detailed as the left attacking division of the Tenth Corps, while the Twenty-first division attacked on the right, and the 1st Australian Division on the left of the Seventh Division.
At 4.30pm on October 2nd the 21st Manchesters moved from Micmac Camp, near St. Hubertshock, to the Gilleleeke where they bivouacked. On the 3rd the battalion – less “A” Company, detached as moppers-up to 22nd Battalion – moved up to assembly position between Norine [Nonne] Boschen and Polygon Wood.
Battalion H.2. were established in a German Pill-box. Companies dug themselves in front of H.Q. The position occupied by the battalion was very heavily shelled with all calibres. Subsequently the battalion moved up to the N.E. end of Polygon Wood, where “C” and “D” companies occupied Jetty Trench, while “B” company dug in round the Mound, where H.Q. were now established. This move was carried out under intense artillery fire. At 9.30 a.m. “D” company, under Major H. W. Walker, M.C. moved forward in support to 22nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, and came under the orders of Lt. Col. F.W. Woodward, D.S.O., commanding that battalion. About 2 p.m. “C” Company, under Captain E.P. Whitehead, was also sent forward, and upon Captain Whitehead becoming a casualty, Major Walker assumed command of both companies, and they remained under orders of the O.C. 22nd Battalion throughout the operations. Meanwhile “B” Company remained entrenched around the mound, and provided numerous carrying-parties both to the 22nd Manchesters and 1st South Staffords.’
* Image of the Battle of Polygon Wood – courtesy of the Imperial War Musuem – http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193404 – image reference E(AUS) 80