Published By John Davies
Passchendaele. 1/4 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 30 October 1917.
The 1 /4 Bn KSLI had arrived in France from the Far East at the end of July 1917 and this would be their first action in France.
During the first three weeks of October 1917 the 1/4 Bn KSLI was in camps and billets in the rear area around Wormhoult and Houtkerque. They had spent the time in training – attacks against strong points (pillboxes) consolidation of ground, demonstrations of signal rockets and contacting aeroplanes. The training was in preparation for the forthcoming actions at Passchendaele. On 24 October, with the final training completed, they moved by motorbus to Dampre Camp near Ypres and the next day marched up to dug outs on the Yser Canal. They were issued with stores, equipment and ammunition. There had been much rain and the canal water was rising and the dugouts were gradually flooding. Little could be done and by the 28 October the dugout were untenable. They salvaged as much equipment as possible but a lot was lost or spoilt. In the afternoon of 29 October they moved to Irish Farm and then onwards to Albatross Ridge at about 11.45pm, on arrival they were heavily shelled which continued through the night. At 5.50 on 30 October the British barrage began and the main assault went over.
The 1/4 Bn KSLI were in reserve and at 1.30pm orders were received to move forward – A & D Coys were to attack Source Trench and fill a gap in the line between Source Farm and Varlet Farm; B Coy went to Kronprinz Farm to reinforce Canadian units; C Coy remained at Albatross Farm. The attack on Source Trench went over but was held up by machine gun fire causing heavy casualties. Although they failed to achieve their objectives they did manage to plug the gap. The KSLI Regimental History notes that the men showed great steadfastness and that there behaviour should ‘set at rest any uneasiness that may have existed in the minds of the higher authorities concerning the reliability of a Territorial battalion, straight from the East, under fire for the first time in France under trying circumstances’.
B Coy meanwhile, at Kronprinz Farm, was to reinforce the 5th Cape Mounted Rifles, a South African unit that had suffered heavy losses. As they moved up they too came under heavy fire causing many casualties but they managed to get into position and establish contact with A & D Coys on their left. During the rest of the night the line was consolidated. The battalion remained in this position until relieved by Nelson Battalion after dark on 31 October. Total casualties were: Officers 1 KIA (Lieutenant CS Coakley CWGC) 8 wounded; ORs 21 KIA, 106 wounded and 1 missing.
GOOGLE MAPS satellite view centres on site of Kronprinz Farm.
References and Sources WAR DIARY 1/4 Bn KSLI. History KSLI
B&O 1917. Third Ypres. Passchendaele. 1/4 Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. 30 October 1917.