This blog continues with a transcription from The Manchester Battalion record book. In addition to the Manchesters, many other regiments are mentioned making the record book a valuable resources for historians and family history researchers. The record also names camps, towns and areas on the front line.
Polygon Wood and Gheluvelt
‘The Battalion remained in the line until the night of the 6th (October), when “A” “C” and “D” companies were relieved by the 9th Devons, but it was not until 3.30 a.m. on the 7th that “B” company withdrew. After relief the battalion moved to camp near Vigverhoek. On the afternoon of the 9th a further move was made to reserve dug-outs at Zillebeke Lake, and on the following day to Micmac Camp, St. Hubertshoek. For a week or so past the weather had been wet and stormy. On the 12th the battalion moved to billets at Ronkloshille, where it remained training until the 22nd. This date found it at Westontre. The next day it was at Little Kemmel Camp. On the 24th it was at La Clytte, and, later in the day, at Lock 8. The battalion took up assembly positions at night preparatory to going into the line for the intended attack on October 26th. Describing this operation Sir A.C. Doyle says:
“The Seventh Division meanwhile had advanced upon Gheluvelt, the 2nd West Surreys, 1st South Staffords and Manchesters of the 91st Brigade advancing to the south of Menin Road in order to guard the flank of their comrades who followed the line of the road which would lead them to this famous village. The flanking brigade was held up however, at the old Stumbling-block near Lewis House, and Berry Cotts, where the German fire was very deadly. This failure enabled the enemy to bring a very heavy cross-fire upon the 2nd Borders and 2nd Gordons of the 20th Brigade, forming the column of attack. In spite of this fire, the stormers forced their way into Gheluvelt but found themselves involved in very hard fighting, while the guns were choked with mud, and useless save as pikes or clubs. Under these circumstances they were forced back to their own line”.
Heavy rain fell during the night of 25th/26th October, especially during the forming-up which rendered the ground exceedingly muddy and made movement a matter of great difficulty. At 5.40 a.m. zero hour, the barrage opened according to programme, and the 21st Manchesters moved forward to get as close to it as possible. The advance continued with accuracy and precision for some time, but subsequently “A” company on the left came under exceedingly heavy enfilading M.G. fire from Lewis House, and the company was practically decimated. “B” company, too, on the right came under heavy M.G. fire from Berry Cotts. The survivors of these two companies dug themselves in as well as they were able – “B” company on a line slightly in advance of Tower Trench which was then occupied by elements of “D” company, who were detailed for mopping up.
To add to the confusion which prevailed some 70 or 80 men of the 2nd Gordons and 2nd Borders passed through the 21st Manchesters, having apparently lost direction. They were afterwards rallied in the vicinity of our old front line. There is every reason to believe that officers and men of “A” and “B” companies were able to continue the advance, although the barrage was lost. But nothing is known of their fate, and no trace could be found of them, although they were reported to have gone on,’
Imperial War Museum – http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205059805 – Q 42250 – Ruins of a church in the village of Gheluvelt, July-September 1917.