Published By Ben Hillidge
Ypres. La Belle Alliance. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. February – April 1916.
The 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry had arrived in the Ypres sector at the end of January 1916. They went into the line on 11 February when they had relieved the 5 Bn KSLI (see Ypres. Elveringhe. 5 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. January – February 1916.). During the change over many friends in each battalion reacquainted themselves and caught up on news. During the relief, at about 2.00am, there was an enemy raid to trenches on their left. The raid was fought off but for the next days there was frequent shelling of the Canal Bank where the battalion was in dugouts and at Skipton and Nile trenches. On 13 February a shell hit a dug out killing 3 officers and a Sergeant Major**, many men were buried and it took all night to dig them out, elsewhere 19 ORs were killed and 46 wounded – one of the men wounded at this time was Private 12294 Arthur Roberts, 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – he would die of his wounds 4 months later on 17 June. The activity continued for the next 2 days when the battalion was moved to a position about 500 yards south along the Canal with companies also at Trois Tours and Pelissier Farm. They spent the rest of the month on working parties.
On 27 February they moved to Poperinghe and into billets close to the town square. Two days later they moved to ‘A Camp’ at Vlamertinghe. It was during this rest period that Private 15749 William H Lewis had penned his last letter home; he was killed about 10 days later. The battalion would spend the next weeks on working parties, repairing the trenches, sandbagging, laying barb wire as well as salvaging equipment in the Ypres salient. They were under the command of Royal Engineers, probably 177 Tunnelling Company. The work was done at night with the troops carrying all the tools and materials up to the line. The work was hard and difficult and had to be done in silence for fear of attracting enemy fire. The weather was mostly snow and sleet which, during the daytime, meant that visibility was very poor and they would be hidden from enemy observers allowing them to move around with a bit more freedom.
On the night of 6-7 March the battalion moved into the front line with battalion HQ at La Belle Alliance where, again, the time was spent on working parties repairing damaged trenches. The enemy was quiet but hard at work also repairing their own positions. On the night of 10-11 March they were relieved by 10 Bn Rifle Brigade and went into billets at Elveringhe. This was when Private 15749 William Lewis was killed. No casualties are recorded in the War Diary for this period; the Regimental History reports that the month had brought the ‘usual casualties’.
The battalion then moved to Elveringhe, here there were hot baths, but the nights were spent on working parties. During the night of 14 March they went back into the lines at Ypres Canal Bank, first into the support lines and then, on 18 March into the front line (E28 to D22 Nile, Lancashire Farm, Headingly, Dawson City and Spahi Farm). On 21 March, at 9.30pm, about 50 enemy troops were seen approaching the line – they were allowed to get within 50 yards and were then fired on by machine gun. The next night the battalion was relieved and went back to Camp C at Brandhoek. Here they spent a week on training before returning to lines at the end of the month.
At the beginning of April the battalion was at Trois Tours engaged on working parties. On the night of 3/4 April they moved up to the front relieving 6 Bn Oxfordshire and Bucks. at La Belle Alliance. They were holding the front line trenches at Willow Walk and the Willow. Here they would spend until the night of 7 April. Casualties for this period were ORs KIA 4, Wounded 5 (one of which was accidental) and 1 Officer KIA. The officer was Lieutenant Lutener, one of the ORs was Private 11882 William Watkins. (see also Sergeant 12076 JA Wilshaw, 1Bn KSLI. (CWGC) and Private 12247 John Evan Lloyd (CWGC)) Given the details of Lt. Lutener’s death, hit by a sniper, it is most likely they were all victims of enemy sniping. On 8 April the battalion was back at Brandhoek. They would spend the rest of the month on tours in the support and front line at the Ypres Canal and at La Belle Alliance.
GOOGLE MAPS Centres on location of La Bella Alliance
References and Sources WAR DIARY 6 Bn KSLI. Regimental History KSLI.
B&O 1916. Ypres. La Belle Alliance. 6 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. February –April 1916.