Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Today is the centenary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the first planned British offensive of the Great War. As well as British troops the attack featured two divisions of Indian infantry in the Meerut and Lahore divisions. The battle also had the first British timetabled artillery "barrage" - also the first time this word was used by the British Army.

The battle was initially successful as troops broke through the German lines but as with so many other battles to come the breakthrough could not be maintained. By the time the cavalry came up the German lines had stabilised. The British also fired 30% of their entire stock of shells on the day of the battle, leading ultimately to the "shell shortage" scandal.

British losses were around 7,000, Indians about 4,200 and Germans around 9,000.
Let's remember all of them today.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day trip to the Somme

Ok, firstly I am sorry for not posting for ages! Unfortunately the real world intervened again, but hopefully normal service has now been restored!

I noticed recently that a local coach company was running a series of day trips to various places on the Somme for only £36 a day - this was an opportunity that was too good to miss. The first trip was this Monday, when we went to Pozieres Ridge, the Lochnagar Crater in La Boiselle, "Ocean Villas" tea rooms for lunch, Mametz and Dantzig Alley, Fricourt German cemetery and the Somme Museum in Albert. We still had time for dinner in Amiens too so a very busy day!

The only downside was the weather, which chose that day to be foggy and damp, so the (apparently) excellent views were invisible. Still, we got to "see" quite a bit anyway!

Here are some pictures from the day:

The Tank Corps memorial at Pozieres
Lochnagar Crater.
Original trenches at "Ocean Villas"
German cemetery at Fricourt
In the Somme Museum at Albert

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Off to Crisis 2014

Sorry not to have posted for a while but "real life" has intervened! Just getting ready now for our annual trip to Antwerp for the Crisis show, which is one of the best shows around. If you've never made the trip, I can assure you it's well worth it! If you are at the show do stop by and say hello - you should know what our set looks like by now!

One of the chaps coming with us has never been to Ypres before (not sure how he managed that!) so on Sunday I'm doing an impromptu tour of the Salient for him. We won't have that long so it'll be bit of a whistle-stop tour of Tyne Cot, Passchendaele Museum in Zonnebeke, Hooge Crater and Museum (looking forward to that, not been there for a while) and Hill 62/Sanctuary Wood. Then down the Menin Road to the Gate and into Ypres. If I can I'd also like to get into Geluveld as tomorrow will be the centenary of that battle.

Should be a good day, if the weather holds! Photos as ever on return.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Mons town square

Many of you may have seen the famous photo of British soldiers in the town square at Mons before the battle. When we were in the square there was a parade to commemorate the battle, with some excellent German infantry re-enactors, together with soldiers from the (modern) Royal Horse Artillery. Here's the square today with some of the German re-enactors.


Obourg railway station

At about the same time as the action at Nimy was hotting up, the German 17th division was also putting pressure onto Obourg railway station, to the east of Nimy. This area was defended by the 4th bttn Middlesex Regt, who again managed to hold on until after lunchtime when their position became untenable and they had to withdraw, having lost about 450 officers and other ranks. Obourg station itself was demolished in the 1980s but one part remains as a memorial to those who fell that day.
The cottages by the side of the road are from the 1914 period, although they have since been renovated a bit! Many of the Middlesex dead are also buried in St Symphorien in a circular shape.

Nimy Railway Bridge

The first action of 23 August 1914 took place around Nimy railway and road bridges, defended by the Royal Fusiliers. The canal here formed a bend, which created a salient on the right flank of the British II Corps, and the railway bridge was defended by infantry and the Fusiliers two Maxim machine guns, commanded by Lt Maurice Dease. One of these guns was kept in action by Lt Dease and Private Godley, and after Dease had been seriously wounded 5 times (he would die later in the day) Godley manned the gun until he too was badly wounded (he survived to be taken prisoner). Both were awarded the VC, the first of the war to be awarded.

The canal has been concreted over elsewhere to become a motorway, but is still there where the railway bridge is, although the canal has been widened since 1914 and the bridge is not the original. If you saw the first episode of BBC's Our World War this covered this action, but they showed the bridge as a road not a railway bridge (oops!). Here are some photos of the bridge today, and of Lt Dease's grave in St Symphorien cemetery. Also in St Symphorien are the first British casualty of the war Pte Parr, and the last casualties from 1918.

First (and last) shots of the Great War

As I mentioned, we spent the weekend in Mons to commemorate the centenary of the battle. We had a great weekend and were able to see many of the places where action took place, including Nimy Bridge and Obourg railway station, and I'll post... photos following this post.

I'll try to do this in (1914) chronological order, so to begin with here's a photo of the spot commemorating the first (British) shot of the Great War on the road going into Mons, which was on 21st August, the first and (allegedly) last shots of the war, which are on opposite sides of the same road a few yards apart, and a view going down the road leading into Mons - the car is about where the German cavalry were when fired upon.