This article describes an attack made by the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles on 16 August 1917, during a phase of the Third Ypres offensive known as the Battle of Langemarck. The battalion was under command of the 48th Infantry Brigade of the 16th (Irish) Division.
On 5 August 1917 the battalion moved to a reserve position east of Ypres, ready to return to the front line. It had only managed a short spell of a few days of rest since it had taken part in the opening of the Third Ypres offensive on 31 July. In overall terms the battle had begun well for the British but heavy and persistent rain brought the attack to a standstill: it was the forerunner of what turned out to be the worst summer weather in Flanders for many decades. On moving forward the battalion remained at the “Ecole de Bienfaisance”, a large building (by now very much damaged) east of Ypres itself. There was much shellfire but no losses were incurred. On 8 August the battalion moved forward to Frezenberg.
The war diary reports that the battalion took up the following positions, which were in ground recently captured from the enemy: Headquarters and “A” Company in a strong point known as the Frezenberg Redoubt; “B” Company in a support position with its right on the Ypres-Roulers railway line; “C” Company ahead of it; “D” Company in the front line on the left of “C”. Coming under heavy shellfire, the battalion lost no fewer than 12 men killed, 75 wounded and 4 missing, without ever leaving the position. A direct hit on battalion headquarters killed or wounded all of the battalion’s runners (men who would take messages by hand) and observers. The depleted battalion was relieved on 10 August and moved rearward to a camp west of Ypres and just south of the village of Vlamertinghe.
On 15 August the battalion moved forward again, ready to take part in a renewal of the offensive. This now has the official name of the Battle of Langemarck. The 7th Rifles reached its place of assembly in the early hours of 16 August.
"Arrived at assembly position at 2.25am. No tapes had been put out by RE [white tapes laid to guide men to a position at night]. Owing to the excellent arrangements made by Captain Black and the officers of “A” Company [of the] 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers [the] battalion had no difficulty in getting into position. Some casualties had occurred on the way up from shell fire. One direct hit on Menin Gate wounded several men of [the] Stokes mortar party.
At about 4am enemy shelled position pretty heavily. At zero hour immediately the barrage started the enemy opened with Machine Guns and shelled the Black Line. During the advance to Green Line enemy MGs were active from several places on the Ypres-Roulers railway and the direction of Borry Farm, and from concrete dugouts at D.26.a.2.0 and D.26.c.3.7. At the latter point the guns kept in action while the [British artillery] barrage passed over them. This MG fire caused a great many casualties. All of the officers were hit before the Green Line was reached. The centre and left companies suffered very severely and were not able to go on."
The right company cleared huts and dugouts at D.26.c.4.5, sending back about 30 prisoners. This company then moved along the railway and crossed the Hanebeek [stream]. Some of them were seen to follow the barrage to the red dotted line. A few of the centre and support companies seem to have followed them through; with the exception of these few the whole line came to a standstill.
An attempt was made to turn the flank [that is, get around the side of] of the dugouts at D.26.c.3.7 from the direction of the huts. Lieutenant Kingston was killed whilst using his revolver against the machine gunner, and what was left of his platoon was knocked out by a shell. A small party consolidated [that is, dug in at] a point of the railway near the huts.
The mopping-up party of the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers came up and joined the support company, who dug themselves in approximately on the line of the road at D.26.c.2.7.
At this time the situation was not at all clear. No messages had got back. I was only getting scraps of information from the wounded. I had sent an officer with four orderlies specially to report on the situation when the Green Line was reached (2/Lt A. C. D. Hill). He has not been seen since soon after zero hour [he was killed in the attack].
Units on either side fared no better and support units coming forward to assist suffered heavy casualties as they did so.
The tired and terribly depleted 7th (Service) Battalion was relieved soon afterwards: the losses had amounted to seventeen officers and 308 men, for virtually no gain.
No fewer than 87 officers and men of the battalion lost their lives in the attack. Of these the vast majority have no known grave today. We have included in this list one man whose death is stated to be 15 August 1917: he is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial and those who came after on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Small numbers of men were evidently found in battlefield clearance at a later date and were buried nearby.
Ypres Menin Gate Memorial
Tyne Cot Memorial
|DE LA HAYE||SNOWDEN||Rifleman||'4382'|
|DUNNE||WILLIAM ROBERT||23||Lance Corporal||'4497'|
|ELMITT||GEORGE CARLETON BROOKSBY||19||Second Lieutenant|
|HATTE||EDWARD STOKES||29||Second Lieutenant|
|IRWIN||WILLIAM JAMES||Second Lieutenant|
|LE LEURE||GEORGE PHILIP||Rifleman||'4149'|
Bedford House Cemetery
|Bedford House Cemetery|
Perth (China Wall) Cemetery
Tyne Cot Cemetery
|HILL||ADAM CYRIL DARLEY||19||Second Lieutenant|
"At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them".
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