Published By Ben Hillidge
Second Ypres. St Julien, Hill 37 and Bellewaerde Wood.
- St Julien. 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 24 April – 4 May 1915.
- Hill 37. 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and 6 Bn Durham Light Infantry. 26 April 1915.
- Bellewaerde Wood. 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 27 April – 2 May 1915
St Julien. 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 24 April – 4 May 1915.
The 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry had moved into the Ypres Salient in the first week of April to occupy trenches around Polygon Wood and Bellewaerde Wood. On the opening day of Second Ypres, 22 April 1915, they were ordered forward to Verlorenhoek and to dig in. Along with 2 companies from 4 Rifle Brigade they held a front nearly 1.5 miles long, they were fortunate that the enemy did not know how weak the front was held and did not attack, the line was reinforced during the evening and night. On 24 April they were relieved and returned back to Bellewaerde Wood with Z company in Polygon Wood. The same day the enemy renewed their offensive at St Julien. On 25 April, at 9am, the battalion was moved back up to Verlorenhoek to the line they had previously occupied. Here they set to improving the trenches and also a detachment served as an escort to artillery.
During the evening of 25 April X and Z companies were sent to Broedesiude to retake a section of trenches lost to the enemy. They moved to a sunken road near to Zonnebeke where a reconnaissance of the objectives was made. It was decided that 2 Platoons from Z Coy would make the assault. They went over at about mid-night and immediately met strong resistance and were driven back, all officers became casualties with 3 KIA and 1 wounded. About three hours later they made a second attempt, this too was driven back with 2 more officers becoming casualties – KIA, Captain JR Pound (CWGC), former master at Shrewsbury School, and Lieutenant R du B Evans, wounded and taken prisoner. In total, casualties among ORs were 37. It was later discovered that the Germans had dug a communication trench which connected the captured trench to their lines. It was therefore a very strong position that could be easily reinforced.
Private 6154 Albert E Loose. KIA 26 April 1915, possibly fell during this action or at the action at Hill 37 – below
Hill 37. 26 April 1915.
- 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and
- 6 Bn Durham Light Infantry
The 6 Bn Durham Light Infantry had only arrived in France about a week before and, because of the enemy offensive, had gone almost straight into the fight without the usual period of trench training and familiarisation. Because of the emergency the DLI was put under the temporary command of Colonel Bridgeford, CO of 2 Bn KSLI and for the next few days the battalions fought together.
On 26 April, 6 Bn DLI and W and Y companies from 2 Bn KSLI were ordered forward to occupy a ridge of high ground about a mile to their front – this was Hill 37, a contour / spot height and barely perceptual summit (see Map – Hill 37). The enemy had been reported to the NW and moving in a SE direction. The DLIs and KSLIs were to occupy the hill and ridge line to bring a flanking fire to bear on the enemy advance. The attack began at about 11am. The 2 battalions advanced westward on a line passing through Frezenberg, They soon came under shell fire with high explosives and gas – it was during this shellfire that Captain Joseph (Thompson) Monkhouse, 6 Bn Durham Light Infantry was KIA. When they arrived on the ridge they found the trenches to be very shallow and providing little cover and it was here that most KSLI casualties occurred. Efforts to improve the trenches were hampered by the continuing shelling. At 5pm orders were received to continue the advance to support the front line – it was believed that the front had been breached, cut off and surrounded. The advance, lead by W company 2 Bn KSLI, again came under heavy shell fire. When they arrived at the stricken position it was discovered the reports were erroneous, the troops, from 1 Rifle Brigade, were holding out and the DLI and KSLI men were not required. Both units were withdrawn to the area around Zevecote for the night. Casualties for the KSLI were 3 officers wounded, 4NCOs & ORs killed and 37 wounded. For the DLI, Officers 2 KIA and 12 wounded, ORs 29 KIA, 224 wounded and 33 Missing.
Private 6154 Albert E Loose. KIA 26 April 1915, fell at this or St Julien see above.
GOOGLE MAPS – link to summit of Hill 37 looking west. The 2 Bn KSLI & 6 Bn DLI advanced from the left to form a defensive flank running north south and crossing the road. TURN ABOUT. The enemy were advancing from left to right in the near distance.
Bellewaerde Wood. 2 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 27 April – 2 May 1915.
Over the night of 27/28 April W and Y coys of 2 Bn KSLI were ordered to attack and recapture the same set of trenches that X and Z coys had failed to take on the night of 25 – 26 April see above. The 2 companies moved off and by 11pm had reached their start line. Arrangements were made for artillery support and each company was allocated a section of trench as their objectives which in some place were less than 100 meters away. By 2.30am all was ready and ten minutes later at 2.40am they went over the top. There was a bright moon and they were soon spotted. The enemy waited until the advancing troops were just 30 yards from their position and opened fire. The effect was devastating. The attack halted and was forced back. Casualties were 23 other ranks killed and missing – including Private 7035 Thomas W Trow. The battalion was withdrawn back to Zevecote and on the 28 April moved back to support trenches at Bellewaerde Wood.
The battalion, after the action of the last days, spent the next 5 days in the relative safety of Bellewaerdre Wood in the support lines. They spent the days digging and improving trenches. No casualties are recorded in the War Diary or Regimental History for this period, however, on CWGC and casualty records, Private 6471 William J Healey is listed variously as KIA or presumed dead on since 29 April 1915. He was either KIA/missing at Bellewaerde Wood or on a working party up the line on the 29th in unknown circumstances or, possibly, was KIA/ missing during the actions of the previous day and not ‘missed’ until the 29th.
The 2 Bn KSLI remained in support trenches at Bellewaerde Wood. On 3 May the enemy renewed their offensive at St Julien and the battalion was moved up to north of Potijze as reinforcements but, as it turned out, they were not needed. They remained at Potijze for the night and the next day moved back to Bellewaerde Wood where they relieved a battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the support line. On the evening 4 May, the British withdrew to a readjusted front line. The battalion was to cover the retirement and then remain in the trenches which would become the new front line. As the withdrawal began the German artillery opened fire. The next day, 5 May, the battalion trenches became the target and they were heavily shelled with high explosive and gas shells. Casualties were 29 ORs killed and 32 wounded (Private 9724 David Jones). The 6 May, was a similar story with 30 ORs KIA and wounded. That evening they were relieved and went back to the GHQ lines at Potijze.
GOOGLE MAPS centres on Bellewaerde Wood
References and Sources War Diary 2Bn KSLI, History KSLI.
B&O 1915 Ypres. Second Ypres. St Julien & Hill 37, 2 Bn KSLI and 6 Bn DLI. 24 April-4 May 1915