Saturday 30 March 1918 We Lost 1,535

by greatwarliveslost

John Graham Antill Pockley

Lieutenant Alan Jerrard (Royal Flying Corps) flies an offensive patrol with Lieutenant Peter Carpenter and Lieutenant Harold Eycott-Martin patrol over the Austro-Hungarian Mansue aerodrome.  Lieutenant Jerrard attacks five enemy airplanes and shoots one down in flames, following it down to within one hundred feet of the ground.  He then attacks the enemy aerodrome from a height of fifty feet from the ground, and, engages single handed some nineteen machines, which are either landing or attempting to take off, succeeding in destroying one of these, which crashes on the aerodrome.  A large number of machines then attack him, and while occupied he observes that one of the pilots of his patrol is in difficulties.  He immediately goes to this pilot’s assistance, regardless of his own personal safety and destroys a third enemy machine.

Fresh enemy airplanes continue to rise from the aerodrome, which he attacks one after another, and only retreats, still engaging five enemy machines, when ordered to do so by his patrol leader.  Although wounded, this very gallant officer turns repeatedly, and attacks single-handed the pursuing machines, until he is eventually overwhelmed by numbers and driven to the ground and made a prisoner.  For his actions Lieutenant Jerrard will be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Battle of Moreuil Wood is an engagement that takes place on the banks of the Arve River in France, when the Canadian Cavalry Brigade attacks and forces the German 23rd Saxon Division to withdraw from Moreuil Wood, a commanding position on the river bank. This defeat contributes to the halt of the German Spring Offensive.

At 08:30 General John Edward Bernard Seely and his aides travel towards the Moreuil woods from where his forces are stationed on the other side of the River Avre, with orders to cross the river and delay the enemy advance as much as possible.  At 09:30, upon reaching the wood, having received fire from German forces that are occupying it, Seely orders the Royal Canadian Dragoons to send sections to protect the village of Moreuil, while other sections are to seize the northeast corner of the wood itself.  While this was being undertaken, Lord Strathcona’s Horse is ordered to occupy the southeast face of the wood and disperse any German units found there.  The remaining squadrons of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade are ordered to enter the wood from the northwest, and sweep through it towards the eastern face where Lord Strathcona’s Horse is awaiting them.  After being driven back from their first assault by machine gun fire, the cavalry units dismount and proceed to attack a second time with fixed bayonets, driving German forces from the edge of the wood and into the center.  Hand to hand fighting breaks out in several locations with swords and pistols as Canadian forces fight through the German 101st Grenadiers, who became disorganized and demoralized.

As Canadian cavalry fight through the wood, they are driven eastwards by German machine gun fire while units of the Canadian Dragoons are forced to wheel into the woods at the north due to German attack.  This quickly became a series of separate engagements due to the nature of the battlefield, with units separated and dispersed inside the German formations, and the fact that horses are ineffective in the woodland leads to the pace of the battle slowing down considerably.  By now the remainder of the 3rd Cavalry has crossed the river and is distributed around the wood to support various Canadian forces currently engaged with German forces, many of these reinforcements are instructed to dismount before entering the battle.  At this time, units from Lord Strathcona’s Horse are formed into scouting teams of about ten men each and sent to discover details about the enemy forces and positions.

The commander of ‘C’ company Lord Strathcona’s Horse, Lieutenant Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, orders his forces to secure the northeast corner then report back to him.  Flowerdew is then ordered to cut off the German forces retreating to the east in the face of the Allied forces advancing through the wood.  During this time, the forces dispatched by Flowerdew to the northeast corner ambush and killed German forces looting a French wagon, then proceeding to dismount and entered the wood under fire.  Flowerdew arrives, assesses the situation, and decides that his unit should move to cut off the German retreat while the other section will help to drive the Germans from the wood.

By now there are six squadrons of cavalry in the wood, planes from the Royal Flying Corps are also attacking German forces from overhead, dropping 109 bombs and firing 17,000 bullets.  Cavalry forces approach the southwest corner of the woods, coming under heavy fire and suffering heavy casualties, they are forced to temporarily halt.  Flowerdew reaches high ground at the northeast corner of the wood just in time to encounter a 300 strong German force from the 101st Grenadier’s who are withdrawing.  Flowerdew orders “It’s a charge boys, it’s a charge!” however the bugler Trooper Reginald George Longley is killed at age 22 after raising his trumpet to blow the call silenced by German fire before it is sounded. During the charge nicknamed “The Last Great Cavalry Charge”, both sides are decimated, and Flowerdew is dangerously wounded through both thighs, with only 51 of his unit still alive. Tomorrow Lieutenant Flowerdew will die of wounds and he will be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts on this day.

By 11:00 only the southern point of the wood is still occupied by German forces.  With reinforcements arriving for the British, Seely orders the remaining Germans to be driven away.  Seely orders British artillery fire into the wood to cease so he can operate without fear of friendly fire.  The Germans are routed from the wood, and the day ends with 305 Allied casualties but the wood was in Allied hands. This battle causes the destruction of the Moreuil Castle, an estate of the family of Rougé, inherited from the Lords of Créquy, Princes of Poix and dukes of Lesdiguières. Among those killed in the Royal Canadian Dragoons is

  • Lieutenant Albert Victor Seymour Nordheimer killed at age 33. His adopted son will be killed in the Royal Canadian Air Force on 17th August 1944 at age 20.

Today’s losses include:

  • A Victoria Cross winner
  • Multiple sons of Baronets
  • Multiple sons of members of the clergy
  • Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
  • Brothers killed together
  • A man who has two brothers-in-law killed
  • The son of the Earl of Kimberley
  • The brother of the first Australian Army officer killed in the Great War
  • The son of a Justice of the Peace
  • A man whose adopted son will be killed in the Second World War

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Major Edward Fairlie (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed in action at age 36. He is the son of the late William Fairlie JP.
  • Major Denys Huntingford Hammonds DSO MC (Royal Engineers) is killed leading a charge at age 30. He is the son of the Reverend Prebendary Edwin Hammonds.
  • Captain Douglas Raymond Montford (Indian Infantry attached Vaughan’s Rifles) is killed in Palestine at age 29. He is the son of the Reverend Henry C Montford.
  • Captain John “Punch” Arnott MC (Hussars) is killed in action at age 32 he is the son of ‘Sir’ John Alexander Arnott the 2nd Baronet and Lady.
  • Captain Herbert Basil Hinson (Canterbury Mounted Rifles) is killed in Damascus at age 24. He is the son of the Reverend Stanley Hinson Vicar of Te Ngawai Christchurch.
  • Captain James Ogilvie Grant Stuart MC (Black Watch) is killed at age 25. His brother was killed last September.
  • Lieutenant John William Church (Hertfordshire Regiment) is killed at age 39. He is the eldest son of ‘Sir’ William Selby Church Baronet KCB late President of the Royal College of Physicians, London.  He became District Commissioner on the Gold Coast in 1907.  Lieutenant Church enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion Middlesex Regiment in August 1914, and received a commission in the Hertfordshire Regiment in March 1915. He served as Acting Captain, Assistant Adjutant, and Musketry Instructor in England in 1916, and went out to France in August 1917. The Hertfordshire Regiment then formed part of the 19th Corps under Brigadier-General Congreve VC and took part in the retreat which began on 21st He is killed while leading the remnants of his battalion in one of the last counter-attacks made on the enemy. Lieutenant Angler Percy Hurd (Hertfordshire Regiment) is killed.  His brother was killed in September 1916.
  • Fleet Paymaster Bertram Howard Wodeman (HMS Benbow) drowns at Scapa Flow at age 42. He is the son of the Reverend Henry Wodeman Vicar of Peckforton.
  • Lieutenant John Graham Antill Pockley (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 26. His brother was the first Australian Officer killed in the Great War in September 1914.
  • Second Lieutenant ‘the Honorable’ Edward Wodehouse MC (Lancers) is killed in action at age 19. He is the son of the 2nd Earl of Kimberley and had attended Eton. His brother will die on service in 1919.
  • Sergeant Allan Cormack (Australian Infantry) dies of wounds at the 56th Casualty Clearing Station at age 26. His two brothers-in-law will lose their lives in the Great War.
  • Trooper Norman Harold, 24, and Lance Corporal Stanley Campbell, 21, are killed while serving with the Australian Infantry attached Imperial Camel Corps near Amman. The brothers are buried in adjacent graves in Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery.
  • Private William M Dickson (Black Watch) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed in May 1915.