Thursday 6 September 1917 We Lost 779

by greatwarliveslost

John Thomas Wall

Air raids from the previous two nights provoke the withdrawal of labour at Dunkirk also affect Nos. 73 and 78 companies, Egyptian Labor Company employed at Boulogne.  Following the heavy bombing on the previous two days, 1,300 Egyptians go on strike, asserting that they have served out the duration of their six-month contracts. Demanding to be sent back to Egypt, they also declare that had been upset by the air raids and are disenchanted by the cold, wet weather.

The Assistant Director of Labour summons the Egyptian Adviser, Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Coutts to negotiate with the strikers.  Coutts, formerly the Director of Stores, Prisons and Police in the Sudan, reports that the men adamantly refuse to modify their sole demand.  They have included in their calculation the time taken to travel and return to their home villages.  Coutts disagrees, asserting that their six-month contracts includes only to the time they spend in France.  Colonel E.C. Wace, the Deputy Director of Labour deals brusquely with Coutts, insisting that the dispute is not a matter for negotiation but a disciplinary issue to be settled by force if the strike continues.

Coutts relays the ultimatum to the Egyptians while the camp is surrounded on three sides by a detachment of the Garrison battalion.  When the defiant strikers break out of the camp, they are gunned down.  The final casualty toll is twenty-three dead and twenty-four wounded.  Thereafter, the Egyptians resume work. The use of force at Boulogne and the accompanying death toll produces the bloodiest outcome of any mutiny that occurred in the BEF during the Great War.

H M Trawler Helgian (Skipper James Harkness Bird age 25) is sunk by a mine in the Gulf of Ruphani Aegean Sea killing ten including her Skipper.

Sergeant John Thomas Wall (Worcestershire Regiment) is executed by firing squad, for desertion, at Poperinghe.  He is 22 years of age.  Sergeant Wall of Bockleton, near Tenbury, Worcestershire had enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment in 1912 and served on the Western Front from the beginning of the Great War.  When he arrived in France with the 3rd Battalion on the 12th August 1914, his rank was Lance-Corporal.  He fought with his battalion in every engagement and was promoted to Sergeant.  In August 1917 the 3rd Battalion was in action near the Bellwarde Ridge, when Sergeant Wall went missing during the attack. This was unlike him and it could have been that he was suffering from ‘battle fatigue’ which affected his mental state.  Unfortunately, this was not considered at his trial. Private Edward Delargy (Royal Scots) is also shot at dawn at age 19.

Today’s losses include:

  • Two men shot at dawn
  • Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
  • Multiple sons of members of the clergy
  • The grandson of a member of the clergy

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Second Lieutenant Thomas Edward Bartleman (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed in May 1915.
  • Second Lieutenant William Hope Davison (Sikh Pioneers) dies of enteric fever at Murree Punjab. His brother will be killed later this month and they are sons of the Reverend W Hope Davison.
  • Second Lieutenant Hugh Kington Llewelyn Statham (Dorsetshire Regiment) is killed at age 31. He is the grandson of the late Archdeacon H S Gill and son of the Reverend P Statham.
  • Lance Corporal Duncan Benjamin Stevenson MacLean (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) dies of wounds at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend Alec MacLean.
  • Corporal Murdo Campbell (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 25. His brother died of wounds in July 1915.
  • Private Sidney Mutimer (Cambridgeshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 23. His brother will die of wounds in April 1918.