Saturday 8 May 1915 – We Lost 2,414
British forces abandon Frezenberg Ridge under a terrific shelling during the second battle of Ypres. At 05.30 a violent German artillery bombardment begins on the British lines causing massive destruction – especially to 83rd Brigade in vulnerable trenches on the forward slopes of the Ridge. The subsequent German infantry assault is repelled by the surviving British battalions. A second German thrust on the ridge is held but a third assault at 10:00, pn either side of Frezenberg village, forces the remaining defenders to fall back. The German attack is stopped on the right by 80th Brigade but, to the north, 84th Brigade is almost totally destroyed in the onslaught; by afternoon a two-mile gap has been punched in the British line. Tenacious defence, hastily improvised counter-attacks and a crucial night advance of 10th Brigade restores a precarious situation.
Part of the new British line now runs in an exposed position along the front of the Frezenberg Ridge to the North West of Ypres. It falls to the 28th Division, which included the 1st Battalion of the Monmouthshire Regiment, to defend these trenches. The 1st Monmouths had reached the front line yesterday in darkness where they took over badly damaged trenches and began a desperate attempt to make repairs before dawn broke this morning. At the height of the fighting the battalion headquarters of the battalion becomes cut off from the troops of the battalion who are facing strong German attacks. In order to gain some measure of control over events the officers of the headquarters move forward to the front line. Faced with attacks from their front and from their right flank, where adjoining troops have withdrawn, the situation of the Monmouths is desperate. A particular problem was a German machine gun, located in a farm.
The Monmouths are now in danger of being overwhelmed and an attempt to provide reinforcements fails as those sent forward are decimated by shellfire. The situation is critical as the Monmouths attempt to hold off attacks from their front and deal with Germans who have taken over the trenches to their right. Captain Harold Thorne Edwards age 32 attempts to organise a flank using a communication trench, but is soon almost surrounded. Called on to surrender and uttering the phrase which becomes part of regimental history, “surrender be damned” he is last seen firing his revolver at his attackers, a scene commemorated in the painting in the entrance of Newport Civic Centre. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lawson Robinson age 45, now gives the order for the Monmouths to pull back from the front line to form a flank against the German attacks from the right, after which he is shot through the neck and killed. It is now the afternoon and the situation is clearly hopeless. With no alternative before them other than annihilation, the remaining isolated groups of the Monmouths pulled back to their support trenches. Some men attempted to get back along shallow communication trenches, others run desperately over open ground; many are wounded or killed by the continuing shellfire and machine gun fire. From these reserve trenches, however, The Monmouths and the Royal Irish Rifles are able to hold off further German advances. Here the extent of the casualties suffered becomes clear that of the 23 officers and 565 other ranks that left Brielen yesterday only 3 officers and 126 other ranks returned. Lieutenant Colonel Robinson commanding officer of the 1st Monmouthshire Regiment is among those killed. He is a veteran of the South African War.
On Gallipoli the attack on Achi Baba in the second battle of Krithia, gains between four and six hundred yards, but not the high ground, from where the Turks maintain their artillery observation. After today the attack is called off, the Allies having sustained 6,500 casualties.
Today’s losses include:
- Two battalion commanders
- A New Zealand rugby international
- The New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion
- The Australian 1901 Long Jump Champion
- An Australian Rules footballer
- A son of the founder of the Yarrow Shipbuilders dynasty
- A son of the Baroness Strathcona
- The son of the first and last Baron Chalmers
- An Olympic fencer
- Son of a Baronet
- A nephew of Lord Northclife
- A 15-year old holder of the Royal Humane Society’s Certificate for Life Saving
- A constable for the Vancouver Police Department
- A man whose widow will remarry and lose her second husband when he is killed in October 1918
- The son of a Justice of the Peace
- A man whose son will be killed in the Second World War
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- Brothers killed in the same action
- Multiple families that will lose two sons
- Multiple families that will lose three sons
- A family that will lose four sons
Today’s highlighted casualties are:
- Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gartside (commanding 7th Australian Infantry” dies of wounds received leading the charge near Tommies’ Trench at age 52.
- Captain Herbert Humphreys Hunter (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 33. He is an Australian Rules Footballer and the Australasian Long Jump Champion of 1901. He played 3 games for Essendon in 1900 and is killed at age 33.
- Captain and Adjutant Edward Charles Dimsdale (Rifle Brigade attached Monmouthshire Regiment) attempts to organize an attack on the farm with the aim of silencing the machine gun and in the process is killed at age 31. His younger brother will be killed in April 1916 in the sinking of the submarine E22.
- Also killed is the battalion’s second in command Edward Styant Williams age 39. Captain James Lancaster (Monmouthshire Regiment) and his brother Major John Cecil Lancaster (Royal Warwickshire Regiment) are both killed in action this day. John dies at age 41.
- Captain Frederick Hugh Sasse (East Yorkshire Regiment) dies on service at age 28. His brother in law Captain Gilbert George Downes will die of wounds in August.
- Captain Ralph Chalmers (Suffolk Regiment) is killed in action at age 24. He was a member of the 1908 Olympic fencing team and then the Aide-de-campe to the Governor of Ceylon in 1913 and 1914 and is a son of the first and last Baron Chalmers. His brother will die of wounds in less than three weeks.
- Captain Eric Fernandez Yarrow (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) is killed at age 20. He is the son of shipbuilder ‘Sir’ Alfred Yarrow 1st Baronet who founded the shipbuilding dynasty Yarrow Shipbuilders.
- Brothers Harry Stuart aged 30 and Ralph Edward McKie Dennison age 37 are both killed today. Harry dies serving as a Captain in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment) at St Eloi. Ralph is a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Sussex Regiment.
- Lieutenant Spencer Ruscombe Westmacott (Leinster Regiment) is killed in action at age 25. His younger brother will be killed in action in July 1917 and they are sons of Canon Westmacott.
- Lieutenant Rupert Howard Henderson (Australian Imperial Forces) is killed in action at Gallipoli less than two weeks after his brother has been killed in action. He dies at age 22.
- Lieutenant Frederick George Smith (Australian Infantry) dies of wounds received at the Anglo-American Hospital in Cairo at age 21. He was wounded on Gallipoli on the 27 April 1915 and was the Deposition clerk in the Department of Justice at the Court House in Bathusrt New South Wales.
- Lieutenant Walter Scott Stuart Lyon (Royal Scots) a Great War poet is killed in action near Potijze Wood after an intense shelling and bombardment at age 28. He attended Bailliol College, Oxford .His two younger brothers have both been killed in the previous year. His poetry includes Easter at Ypres: 1915 and the below.
I Tracked a Dead Man Down a Trench
I tracked a dead man down a trench.
I knew not he was dead.
They told he had gone that way,
And there his foot-marks led.
The trench was long and close and curved,
It seemed without an end;
And as I threaded each new bay
I thought to see my friend.
I went there stooping to the ground.
For, should I raise my head,
Death watched to spring; and how should then
A dead man find the dead?
At last I saw his back. He crouched
As still as still could be,
And when I called his name aloud
He did not answer me.
The floor-way of the trench was wet
Where he was crouching dead;
The water of the pool was brown
And round him it was red.
I stole up softly where he stayed
With head hung down all slack,
And on his shoulders laid my hands
And drew him gently back.
And then, as I guessed, I saw
His head, and how the crown –
I saw then why he crouched so still,
And why his head hung down.
- Lieutenant Lucas Henry St Aubyn King (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed in action at age 20. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Lucas White King Kt and a nephew Lord Northcliffe.
- Lieutenant Guy Nicholas Palmes (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend George Palmes Vicar of Naburn.
- Second Lieutenant Sidney Hannaford Hellyer (East Yorkshire Regiment) dies of wounds received 28th April at age 25. He is the son of Charles Hellyer JP.
- Second Lieutenant Wallace Alfred Buckworth (Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) is killed on Gallipoli at age 32. His brother will be killed in August 1917.
- Second Lieutenant Ninian Mark Kerr Bertie (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed at age 18. He is the son of the Reverend the Honorable Alberic Edward Rector of Gelding and Lady Bertie.
- Second Lieutenant Charles Malin Clifton Sorby (Monmouthshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend Albert Ernest Sorby Rector of Darfield.
- Second Lieutenant “the Honorable” Robert Henry Palmer Howard (East Surrey Regiment) is killed in action at age 21. He is the son of R J and Baroness Strathcona and Mount Royal.
- Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Phipps Hornby (Suffolk Regiment) is killed in action at age 24 at Frezenberg Ridge. He is the son of the Venerable Phipps John (Archdeacon of Lancaster) and he has a brother who will be killed in October 1916.
- Second Lieutenant Henry Thomas Ludson Couve (Australian Imperial Forces) is killed. He is a well-known soccer player with the Dandenong Club and his brother was killed two weeks ago.
- Sergeant Frederick Ernest Bake (London Regiment) is killed. His son will lose his life on service in April 1945.
- Lance Sergeant Henry Morgan and his brother Private Frederick William Morgan (Monmouthsire Regiment) age 19 are killed.
- Corporal George Stanner Price Hanney (Monmouthshire Regiment) is killed at age 19. He is the first of three brothers who will be killed over the next year.
- Acting Corporal George Tocher (Gordon Highlanders) dies of wounds at age 21. He is the first of four brothers who are killed in the Great War.
- Lance Corporal Charles Savory (Auckland Regiment) dies of wounds received in action at Gallipoli. He played in the Rugby Union and then transferred to the Rugby League and accepted a position in the combined New Zealand and New South Wales team that toured England. He played for Auckland and New Zealand on many subsequent occasions and his last appearance was as a member of the New Zealand team that played England in August 1914. He was also the New Zealand heavyweight-boxing champion.
- Lance Corporal Arthur Walker (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed in December 1916.
- Private Robert Clark (East Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 24. His brother will die of wounds in April 1918.
- Private Leslie Goldie Clark (Auckland Infantry) is killed during the Daisy Patch engagement. His brother will be killed in June 1916.
- Private William Blackmore (Monmouthshire Regiment) is killed at age 35. His brother was killed last January.
- Private Richard Cowper (Auckland Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Forces) is killed in action at age 26. He is one of three brothers who will lose their lives during the Great War.
- Private Wesley Earl Varcoe (Wellington Infantry) is killed 5 days after his brother.
- Private William Savage (Suffolk Regiment) is killed in action. His brother will be killed in May 1917.
- Private Joseph Cornelius Green (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 19. His brother will be killed in September 1918.
- Private John Henry Dengel (Middlesex Regiment) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed in May 1918.
- Private John Hopkinson (York and Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 29. His brother will be killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
- Private Walter Nutter (Lancaster Regiment) is killed at age 30. His brother will be killed in August of this year on Gallipoli.
- Gunner Walter Gaudin Mason (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed in action. His widow will marry Sergeant Charles Isidore Laugeard DCM (Hampshire Regiment) who will be killed in October 1918.
- Private George Robertson (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) is killed. His brother will be killed in May 1917.
- Private David Angus Morrison (Manitoba Regiment) dies of wounds received in action at age 27. He is a constable in the Vancouver Police Department.
- Rifleman Percy William Arthur Philcox (London Regiment) is killed at age 24. His brother will die of wounds in May 1917.
- Private Arthur Mattocks (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 26. His brother will be killed in September 1916.
- Private Hubert Bernard Hodson (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) is killed at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend Thomas Hodson Rector of Oddington.
- Private William Frederick Stokes (Cheshire Regiment) is killed at age 22. His brother will die of fever in Mesopotamia in July 1916.
- Private Jacob Key (Suffolk Regiment) is killed at age 30. He is the first of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
- Private Michael Collins (Irish Regiment) is killed by shell fire becoming the second of four sons of Agnes Collins of Waterford to be killed in the Great War.
- Able Seaman James Duncan (Howe Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Royal Naval Division) is killed at age 15 on Gallipoli. He is a holder of the Life Saving Certificate from the Royal Humane Society received at age 12.
- Private Samuel Higginson (Lancaster Regiment) is killed at age 23. His brother will be killed in August 1916.
- Private Christopher Fagan (Dublin Fusiliers) is killed. His brother was killed last November.