Published By Ben Hillidge
Houthulst Forest. 17 Bn Lancashire Fusiliers. 18 October 1917.
17 Bn Lancashire Fusiliers had spent the first half of October at Lattre St. Quentin. They had been training as well as rest and recreation, hot baths had been laid on. They moved up to Eringham on the 14 October and the next day travelled by train to Proven where they camped overnight. They then moved up by trench railway to Boesinghe and went into the frontline near to Houthulst Forest on the night of the 16/17 October. The way up to the front was along duckboards and then following tapes through the muddy shell holes. The conditions were extremely bad with mud and cold. The front line was made up of connected shell holes half full of water. The disposition of the battalion was X, Z & W Coys front line on a 1000 yard frontage with their centre about 150 yards north of Les 5 Chemins road junction. Half of each company was in the front line, the other half in support. Y coy was held in reserve at Egypt House, Battalion HQ was 1200 yards south west.
On the morning of 17 October the battalion was visited by HRH The Prince of Wales (to be Edward VIII) – he was acting as a staff captain to Brigadier-General, General Staff, XIV Corps
The battalion would spend the next 2 days in the line, throughout they were heavily shelled. Getting supplies up to the front and evacuating the wounded was difficult and dangerous – a party of 6 stretcher bearers took 6 ½ hours to evacuate a casualty 1200 yards. Casualties were light until the relief which took place during the evening of the 18 October. The men were ready to move back at 10.00pm. It was pitch blackness with no moon and they had great difficulty traversing the wrecked landscape. At 11.00pm the enemy put over a bombardment of mustard gas. The men put on their respirators but there were still many gas woundings. The last of the men finally got back at day break of the 19 October. Casualties were 1 officer killed (Temporary Lieutenant Harold N Lewis) 1 officer wounded by gas and 8ORs wounded.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 17 Bn Lancs. Fus.
B&O 1917. Third Ypres. Houthulst Forest. 17 Bn Lancashire Fusiliers. 18 October 1917.