Friday 12 October 1917 We Lost 3,663
Even now Haig goes on with the battle, even though the rain and bitter cold have set in and today he orders another attack, which is fated to fail miserably, with men struggling up to their knees and waists in the dreadful mud with their rifles and machine guns clogged with it. The only solid objects in this endless waste of cratered mud are the German concrete pillboxes with their machine guns which are protected from the mud and which operated all too well. This attack cost 7,000 casualties. The Australian 3rd Division will lose 3,199 lives in the next 24 hours. The exhausted Australians are at last withdrawn but Haig is still driven with the idea capturing Passchendaele Village and orders the Canadians to take over the battle. However their General Currie refuses to move until the weather has eased and adequate supplies are available.
The Royal West Kent Regiment is ordered to attack German positions in the battle of Poelcapelle at 05:25. As the artillery barrage begins one of the leading companies reports being struck by shells from the British artillery that are falling short. Poor weather and ground conditions made the going difficult for the attacking troops and casualties are great. Eventually the attack fails and the battalion suffers 285 officers and men killed, wounded and missing.
- Private Nelson Taplin (Royal West Kent Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother will be killed in July 1918.
Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries (Australian Infantry) is killed in action at Passchendaele performing acts that will win him the Victoria Cross. He is only 23 years old. The 34th Battalion – as a member of the 9th Brigade – is to take part in the 3rd Australian Division’s attack on Passchendaele, Belgium. Subject to several days of heavy rain, the battlefield has been transformed into a boggy marsh on which the attack is to commence. Jeffries commands B Company during the attack, which he halts at the entrance to Broodseinde railway cutting, as many of the direction tapes leading to the starting position have been destroyed or swallowed in the mud. To avoid any mishaps, Jeffries and another of the battalion’s company commanders, Captain T G Gilder, push on alone as far as Keerselaarhoek cemetery to find the tapes marking the battalion’s starting line for the attack. By 03:00 the 34th Battalion is formed up on the line of attack.
At the designated time of 05:25, the British open up with an artillery barrage on the German positions just as the Australian forces enter no man’s land for the attack. Heavy machine gun fire assaults the troops from all directions as they bunch together on the firmer ground to avoid sinking in the boggy mud. Serious resistance is encountered at Hilside Farm, a strong point to the east of Augustus Wood in the centre of the highest part of the Passchendaele ridge. The position consists of two pillboxes, supported by fifty meters of trench which is occupied by approximately thirty men with four machine guns. The fire from these machine guns forces the men of the 34th Battalion to seek cover on the exposed crest and threatens to halt the entire advance.
Jeffries, realizing his force is suffering heavy casualties, quickly organizes a bombing party of fourteen men and sets about outflanking the pillboxes. Accompanying Jeffries is Sergeant James Bruce, a 39-year-old Scottish-born miner who has worked for Jeffries’ father at the Abermain Collieries. According to popular legend, Bruce has promised to look out for his boss’s son, and remains at Jeffries’ side throughout the attack. Working around the position, the party attacks the emplacement from the rear, capturing four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners; thus reviving the advance. Jeffries then leads his company forward under heavy artillery and machine gun fire to reach their first objective.
In spite the heavy losses which leave gaping holes in the Allied line, it is decided that the next stage of the advance is to go ahead. At 08:25, parties from the 34th and 35th Battalions head out along the south-eastern edge of the ridge towards the outskirts of Passchendaele. Almost immediately, they come under heavy fire from a pillbox close by a railway embankment, at which time Major John Bruce Buchanan, the senior brigade officer with the advance party, falls dead, leaving Jeffries to assume control. Gathering a party of eleven men, he sets about silencing the machine gun position. Edging across the open ground, the party attacks the position from the west just as the machine gun is firing to the north. Realizing that an attack is imminent, the machine gunner switch around, mortally wounding Jeffries in the stomach and sending the rest of the party to ground. When its fire eases, the remaining members of the group work around the position rush it and seize two machine guns in conjunction with thirty prisoners.
- Lieutenant Charles Frederick Sharland (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 34. He is the son of the Reverend Frederick Burnett Sharland.
- Lieutenant Dudley Sinclair Elliot (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 27. His son and only child will be born next March and his brother was killed n May 1915. A third brother will be killed as a Lieutenant Commander on HMS Mashona in May 1941.
- Lieutenant Thomas Fraser Bruce (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 31. He is a New South Wales rugby League footballer for Eastern Suburbs from 1909 to 1912.
- Australian Chaplain ‘The Reverend’ M Bergin MC (Australian Army) is killed in action.
- Corporal Oswald Horatio Goodrich (Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery) is killed in action at age 23. His brother was killed in August 1916.
- Corporal Walter Henry Chibnall (Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery) is killed when struck by a shell while in a crater at age 32. His son Private William Beresford Chibnall will die as a prisoner of war of the Japanese in February 1942.
- Corporal Sidney George Jarman (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 22. His older brother will be killed next April.
- Private Frederick William Perrott (Australian Infantry) is killed in action at age 32. His two nephews will be killed in World War II.
- Private Frank Rupert Fell (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in August 1916.
- Private Edward Henry Baird (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 31. He is an Australian Union Rugby footballer who earned one cap in 1908.
- Private Edward Henry Baird (Australian Infantry) is killed. He was Australia’s fullback in the first Test played in Brisbane in 1908.
- Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Winter-Evans DSO (commanding 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed in action. He is a veteran of the South Africa War.
- Lieutenant Colonel George Augustus King (commanding 1st Canterbury Regiment) is killed at age 32.
- Lieutenant Mackenzie Gibson (Canterbury Regiment) is killed in action at age 27. He is the younger son of the Reverend Mackenzie Gibson Chaplin to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
- Second Lieutenant Arthur Grattan Guinness (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed in action in Belgium at age 27, over two years after his younger brother has been killed on Gallipoli.
- Second Lieutenant George Marmaduke Vavasour (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed in action at age 26. His brother was accidentally killed in January of this year.
- Sergeant James McKenzie Boyle MM (Otago Regiment) is killed at age 34. His son will be killed serving in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in February 1941.
- Corporal Donald Peter Brown Hosie (Otago Regiment) an architect is killed at age 22. Just prior to his conscription he won a competition to design Wanganui’s new art gallery, the Sarjeant Gallery, and authorities agreed to a request by the then town mayor to defer his overseas posting until he completed the working drawings. Today it is regarded as among the finest provincial art galleries in New Zealand, the gallery was opened by Prime Minister William Massey in September 1919. It will be Hosie’s only work.
- Lance Corporal Douglas Horatio Dumbleton (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 28. He is the grandson of General Charles Dumbleton.
- Corporal Daniel Verner Henry Du Vall (Canterbury Regiment) is killed at age 30. He is a Rugby League professional who played for Hawke’s Bay and his country.
- Lance Corporal Cyril Hartnett (Otago Regiment) is killed in action. His brothers Dennis, John and Philip will all die as a result of Great War service.
- Rifleman Walter Downes (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed on Gallipoli on the second day of the landing.
- Private Leslie Hastie Dewar (Otagao Infantry) is killed at age 19. His brother will be killed in less than two months.
- Private Alfred William Nordstrom (Canterbury Regiment) is killed at age 34. His brother was killed last June.
- Private William Nicol Kininmont (Otago Regiment) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed two days before year end.
- Private Claude Leonard Knowles (Canterbury Regiment) is killed at age 23. He is the son of the Reverend Walter Frank Knowles Vicar of Amberley New Zealand.
- Brothers and Riflemen Leonard Henry Dixon and Cecil Morland Hight (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) are killed together. Leonard is 27 and Cecil 22.
Today’s losses include:
- A man whose son will be born next March and who had a brother killed in May 1915 a third brother who will be killed in the Royal Navy in May 1941
- The son of a United States Civil War correspondent
- A Great War Poet
- Multiple battalion commanders
- A man whose sister will drown in the S S Osmanieh sinking
- A man whose son will be killed in the RAFVR in February 1941
- Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons in the Great War
- Brothers killed together
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- A Military Chaplain
- A man whose son will die as a prisoner of war of the Japanese in February 1942
- A man who will be killed in the Second World War
- A Rugby International
- An Australian Union Rugby Player
- An Australian fullback in the 1st Test played in Brisbane in 1908
- The son of a General
- The grandson of a General
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Captain and Adjutant Cyril Shakespear Beachcroft (Household Battalion) is killed at age 32. He is the son of the Reverend Charles Seward Beachcroft.
- Captain Ian Ferguson Duncanson (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) is killed at age 21. His brother was killed in July 1916 while his sister will drown in the Osmanieh next December.
- Captain Frederick Tyrell Godman (Royal Sussex Regiment) dies after serving two years as a prisoner at Holzminden, Germany at age 42. He is the son of General Richard Temple Godman and was a South African War veteran.
- Captain Walter Ronald Wacher (Berkshire Regiment) is killed in action. His brother was killed in August 1915. Lieutenant Christian Harold Ernest Boulton (Cameron Highlanders attached Staff Headquarters) is killed at age 20. He is the Aide de Campe to Major General ‘Sir’ Eric Geddes. He authored with Miss Gertrude Jennings of Elegant Edward which was produced at the Haymarket in May last year. He is the son of ‘Sir’ Harold Edwin Boulton JP the 2nd
- Lieutenant James Emil Burleigh MC (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) is killed at age 21. He is the last of three sons of war correspondent Bennet Burleigh who died in 1914 and who served in the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
- Lieutenant A S Harper (Black Watch) is killed at age 26. His brother will be killed in December.
- Second Lieutenant George Addis Adamson (King’s Own Scottish Borderers) is killed in action at age 19. He is the son of the Reverend Robert Adamson.
- Second Lieutenant William Robert Hamilton (Coldstream Guards attached Machine Gun Corps) is killed in action at age 26. He is considered a Great War poet.
- CSM Arthur Philip Rogers DCM (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed in action. He is the middle of three brothers who lose their lives as a result of war service.
- Private Donald Calder (Cameron Highlanders) is killed at age 26. His two brothers were killed in September 1915.
- Private Alfred Campkin (Berkshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 30. He has two brothers who will be killed in 1918.
- Private Alexander Downie (Cameron Highlanders) is killed in action at age 29. His brother will die of wounds in less than one month.
- Private William Oliver Gee (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed in action at Salonika at age 25. His brother will also be killed on service.
- Private Harold Johnson (Welsh Guards) is killed at age 26. His older brother was killed in September 1916.
- Private Charles Daniels (Berkshire Regiment) is killed at age 27. His brother will be killed in October next year.
- Leading Seaman Frederick Crichton Allison (Drake Battalion Royal Naval Division) dies of wounds at age 32. His brother was killed last month.
- Private Edward Hayes (Sherwood Foresters) is killed at age 24. His brother will die of wounds in November 1918.