Thursday 4 October 1917 We Lost 4,997
The Battle of Broodseinde Ridge is a British attack on an eight mile front from the railway north of Langemarck to Tower Hamlets Ridge on the Ypres-Menin Road. The main attack is conducted by the I Anzac, II Anzac Corps and XVIII Corps, with flanking attacks supporting the main attack conducted by the X Corps, IX Corps and XIV Corps. Additionally, fourteen tanks are also used. The attack is timed to start at 06:00 hours. The northernmost corps (XIV Corps) encounters a bog during its advance – resulting in it losing the protection of the creeping barrage. The XIV Corps encounters machine gun fire from defences along the edge of Houlthulst Forest and suffers 1,700 casualties while gaining very little ground. The northern corps of the main attack (XVIII Corps) manages to capture all of its objectives at a cost of 2,000 casualties. German artillery fire and counter attacks later resulted in the Germans recapturing the northern half of the village of Poelcappelle.
The I ANZAC Corps now has one of the most unique experiences of the war. When it was preparing to attack, a German artillery bombardment falls on it causing 1 in 7 of the attacking forces to become casualties. When the Australian forces starts to attack, the cause of the German artillery fire became apparent, when they are met by a German regiment in no-man’s land. Due to the superior numbers involved, the Australians quickly rout the Germans and continue the attack. Despite hard fighting to defeat the fortifications of the Flandern I line, the Australians reach the first objective (the “Red Line” a line 100 to 200 yards short of the crest of the ridgeline) by 07:20. During the hour long halt at the first objective, parts of the 1st Australian Division has to fight German pillboxes positioned along the crest of the ridgeline. The Australians consolidate just short of the second objective due to defensive fire from German positions along the edge of “Daisy Wood”. This effort costs the Australian divisions approximately 4,500 casualties. Initially, the II ANZAC Corps has an easier time than its neighbouring ANZAC units. During the advance to the second onjective (the “Blue Line” a line 200 to 400 yards beyond the crest of the ridgeline), it has to advance through parts of the Flandern I line. Despite this, the second objective is reached by 09:00, at a cost of 3,500 casualties (including 1,853 New Zealanders). the attack by the X Corps achieves most of its objectives (advancing 800 yards), although unsubdued German artillery fire from behind the Ghevulelt Plateau causes large numbers of casualties (8,000 casualties in the three attacking divisions). The southernmost corps (the IX Corps) experiences the same problems as the X Corps and makes little headway against the German defences.
After the attacking units reach their final positions, Allied artillery fires an interdiction barrage for an additional two and a half hours, allowing the attacking troops to establish defences (trenches, outposts, defensive wire entanglements, etc.). As a result, when the Germans counter-attack, most of the counter-attacks are dispersed purely through the use of Allied artillery. The attack is a stunning attritional success, with an average advance of over 1,000 yards and the Australian 3rd Division advancing up to 1,900 yards. Capture and retention of ground is varied, with limited (or no) advance maintained by the southernmost Corps, to moderate gains between Menin Road and Polygon Wood and all objectives at Broodseinde Ridge. By mid-afternoon it is decided that no further attacks will take place.
Captain Clement Robertson (West Surrey Regiment attached Tank Corps) is killed at age 28. At Zonnebeke, Belgium, Captain Robertson leads his tanks in attack under heavy shell, machine-gun and rifle fire over ground which has been ploughed by shell-fire. He and his batman have spent the previous three days and nights going back and forth over the ground, reconnoitering and taping routes, and, knowing the risk of the tanks missing the way, he now leads them on foot, guiding them carefully towards their objective, although he must have known that this action would almost certainly cost him his life. He is killed after the objective has been reached, but his skillful leading had already ensured success. For his actions he will be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Captain Robertson is a founding member of the Delgany Golf Club where his name is the first on the President’s Cup.
Today’s losses include:
- A Victoria Cross winner
- The only child of a Victoria Cross winner
- A founding member of the Delgany Golf Club
- Multiple battalion commanders
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
- Multiple brothers killed together
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- A grandson of two members of the clergy
- A grandson of a member of the clergy
- A Humane Society Bronze Medal winner
- An Australian Rules footballer
- A New Zealand Rugby Union footballer
- The Captain of the “Original All Blacks”
- A popular footballer and member of the Auckland City Fire Brigade
- An Irish International Rugby player
- A professional cycling champion and world record holder
- Multiple Military Chaplains
- A man shot at dawn for mutiny
- The grandson of a Baronet
- An Assistant Scout Master
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Robert Arthur Pye DSO (commanding 18th Australian Infantry) is killed in action at age 27.
- Major Philip Llewellyn Howell-Price DSO MC (Australian Infantry) becomes the third of three brothers to be killed in action within a year during the Great War. He dies at age 23. All three are awarded the Military Cross and are sons of the late Reverend John Howell-Price.
- Lieutenants Frank, 26, and John Rigby MM, 29, Australian Infantry are killed together.
- Another set of brothers Michael, 28, and Patrick Starr, 22, are killed serving the Australian Infantry.
- Second Lieutenant John Oliver Ethell (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the Reverend Alfred William Ethell Rector of Laidley.
- Corporal Thomas Jepson Gascoyne (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 40. He is a professional cycling champion and world recorder holder for both 25 miles and the flying start quarter-mile. He also holds the English record for two miles on a tandem.
- Lance Corporal Reginald Percy Bartram (Australian Infantry) becomes the last of three brothers who are killed this year when he loses his life at age 36.
- Private Ernest Briggs (Australian Infantry) is killed in action at age 22. His brother was killed last January.
- Eric, 21, and Joseph Burgess, 25, are killed serving with the Australian Field Artillery. The brothers are buried in adjacent graves at The Huts Cemetery, Dickebusch.
- Private Gavin Gordon Bulkeley Gavin age 25 and Lance Corporal James Tinnock Bulkeley Gavin age 23 (Australian Infantry) are killed together.
- Private Norman Richard Wight (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 20. He was awarded the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for attempting to save a soldier who fell over board from a transport at Sierra Leone on 22nd November 1916 but he could not save him.
- Private Clement Henry Gamble (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed in four days.
- Private Winton Merlin Langtry (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 20. His brother will be killed in December of this year.
- Private Thomas Miller McCluskey (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 27. An Australian Rules Footballer he played in 9 games in 1910 and 1911.
- Private William John Cumming (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 23. His brother died of wounds in August 1915.
- Captain Hugh Townshend Boscawen (Wellington Regiment) is killed at age 38. He is the grandson of the Reverend Honorable John Townshend Boscawen and the Reverend John W Conway Hughes.
- Chaplain the Reverend Guy Spencer Bryan-Brown (New Zealand) is killed at age 32. He is the son of the late Reverend Willoughby Bryan-Brown.
- Sergeant David Gallaher (Auckland Infantry) is killed at age 41. He is a New Zealand rugby union footballer, best known as the captain of “The Originals” the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks. Born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, Gallaher’s family emigrated to New Zealand in 1878. Originally settling in Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, they moved to Auckland in the 1890s and it was there that Gallaher played his provincial rugby. Gallaher played 26 representative matches for Auckland, including the first ever Ranfurly Shield defense, and 36 for the All Blacks, including 6 tests. Gallaher’s All Black career spanned from 1903 to 1906, the highlight being the captaincy of the “Originals” tour in which he played 26 matches including 4 tests. Gallaher proved to be an outstanding leader and one of the deepest thinkers of the game in his era. Gallaher fought in the South African War serving as a corporal in the New Zealand Contingents of Mounted Rifles. Although exempt from conscription due to his age, Gallaher volunteered to fight in the Great War, and apparently altered his date of birth to 31st October 1876. He saw action at Ypres, and is killed during the Passchendaele He is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge, where his gravestone bears the silver fern. Two of Gallaher’s brothers were also killed in France. He is a member of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.
- Corporal George William Worner (Auckland Regiment) is killed in action at age 30. He was a well-known football player, having played for the City Rovers and Grafton Athletic clubs. He was also a member of the Waitemata Boating Club and a member of the Auckland City Fire Brigade.
- Corporal Ronald Burnsall Twisleton (Wellington Regiment) is killed in action at age 22. His brother was killed in August 1915 at Gallipoli.
- Private Guy Genge (Otago Regiment) is killed in action at age 21. His brother was killed in September 1916.
- Private Jeoffreys Carmichael (Auckland Regiment) is killed at age 35. His brother was killed in July 1916.
- Private Charles Gow (Auckland Regiment) is killed at age 21. He is an Assistant Scout Master in Timaru.
- Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Hamilton Dix MC (Leinster Regiment commanding 12th/13th Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 39.
- Lieutenant Colonel Neville Reay Daniell (Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry commanding 9th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 28.
- Major Albert Lewis Stewart (Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 28. He is an Irish International Rugby player.
- Captain Roy Grote Cordiner MC (Lincolnshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. He is the son of Reverend Robert Charles Cordiner.
- Lieutenant Alexander Egan Barrow (Royal West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 29. He is the son of the late Reverend Kingston Egan Barrow.
- Lieutenant Herbert Cecil Ainger (Royal Scots attached Royal Flying Corps) is killed at age 22 when his Spad is shot down. He is the son of the late Reverend Francis Edward Ainger rector of St John’s Jedbugh Roxburghshire.
- Lieutenant George Samuel Vincent (Royal Fusiliers) is killed at age 24. His brother died of wounds last year.
- Lieutenant Oliver St. Michael Jones (Sherwood Foresters) is killed at Poelcappelle at age 40. He is the only child of the late Captain Henry Mitchell Jones VC late of the Diplomatic Service. Lieutenant Jones on leaving Harrow went to Argentina, and on the outbreak of the South African War proceeded to Durban where he joined Thornycroft’s Mounted Infantry, being subsequently given a commission in the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers). He was severely wounded by a shell. After several years’ service he resigned his commission and became a world traveler. In August 1914 he was in Mexico ill. He returned home to be medically treated and then entered the Sherwood Foresters.
- Second Lieutenant Duncan MacKenzie MacRae (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed. He is the son of the Reverend D M MacRae.
- Second Lieutenant William Ward Odell MC (Sherwood Foresters) is killed at age 36. He is the son of the Reverend Joseph Odell.
- Second Lieutenant Charles Stanley Martin (Leicestershire Regiment) is killed at age 27. His brother was killed in August 1915.
- Second Lieutenant John Leslie Lowth (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 27. His brother was killed on Gallipoli in August 1915.
- Chaplain the Reverend Stephen Clarke (attached Lancashire Fusiliers) is killed.
- Corporal Frederick John James (Somerset Light Infantry) is killed at age 31. His brother was killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme.
- Lance Corporal Jesse Robert Short (Northumberland Fusiliers)) is shot at dawn at age 30 for his role as an Etaples Mutineer.
- Lance Corporal Charles Gill (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed in action at Salonika. His brother was killed in September of last year.
- Lance Corporal Edwin John Burnell (Devonshire Regiment) is killed in action becoming the third brother to die in the Great War.
- Acting Corporal James Oag (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) is killed at age 29. His brother was killed on Gallipoli in July 1915.
- Private Alfred Thomas Pettman (East Kent Regiment) is killed in action at age 21. His brother was killed in February 1916.
- Private Leonard Brown (Warwickshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed in September 1916.
- Private David Alexander Malcolm (Seaforth Highlanders) dies of wounds at age 23. His brother was killed in November 1916.
- Private George Georgeson (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed. His brother was killed in October 1914.
- Private Albert Victor Gurr (Sussex Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed last November.
- Private John Youlden (Devonshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother will be killed next September.
- Private Robert Wallis Heaven (Devonshire Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed in January of this year.
- Private Reginald Harold Couzens (Warwickshire Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother died of wounds less than two months ago.
- Private Walter Tugwell (East Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother will be killed at the end of next month.
- Private John Fletcher Boughey (West Surrey Regiment) is killed at age 35. His brother was killed on HMS Defence at Jutland and they are grandsons of the Reverend Benjamin Lucas Cubitt and ‘Sir’ John Fenton Boughey 2nd