H. C. (Herbert Charles) O'Neill.

The Royal fusiliers in the great war online

. (page 1 of 38)
Online LibraryH. C. (Herbert Charles) O'NeillThe Royal fusiliers in the great war → online text (page 1 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


(E ROYAL FUSILIERS
N THE GREAT WAR







^£.?ffirJ-v;"i






. C. O'NEILL




k



THE ROYAL FUSILIERS
IN THE GREAT WAR



THE ROYAL FUSILIERS
IN THE GREAT WAR



BY

H. C. O'NEILL, O.B.E.



ILLUSTRATED



LONDON- WILLIAM HEINEMANN



Dedicated

by

HIS MAJESTY'S GRACIOUS PERMISSION

to

KING GEORGE V.

Colonel-in-Chief, Royal Fusiliers



PREFACE

To the army the subordinate armies are the units ; to
the sectional armies, the army corps ; to the army corps,
the divisions ; to the divisions, the brigades ; to the
brigades, the battalions. Only when we reach the
battalions does the full incidence rest upon the companies
and the individuals who compose them. It is this that
constitutes the main difficulty of writing a regimental
history. In a regiment a private or N. CO. is not X Y Z
123456, but " that bandy-legged little chap who played
the fiddle," a distinct and quite human personality.
It is the human side of war that is uppermost. But the
historian cannot on these grounds excuse himself from
dealing with the military framework into which these men
fitted. The stress falls in this, as in the more personal
side of the war, upon detail. If regimental histories were
all written with a perfect knowledge of detail, the history
of the war would be made supremely easy for those who
have to deal with operations in their larger aspect.

But in the case of the Royal Fusiliers the historian is
faced with the task of dealing with 235,476 men who
fought in every theatre, except Mesopotamia, put in an
appearance at almost every considerable battle of the war,
and whose dead numbered 21,941. The problem of dealing
with the history of these battalions in the space has been
extremely difficult, and I have been reluctantly compelled
to adopt a compromise. The complete story could not be
told in all its detail. On the other hand, the purely military
narrative which makes the more irresistible challenge to
my mind might have been concentrated, but it would
have tended to be lifeless. I have attempted to meet
both claims by dealing with every engagement that
seemed to deserve notice as correctly and completely as



viii PREFACE

possible, while singling out incidents appealing to me as
more significant. In the final resort some loss of per-
spective and some injustice are inevitable. But injustice
is inevitable on any plan. In this laborious, though
fascinating, inquiry I have been struck by nothing so
much as the terrible disproportion and fundamental
injustice of the awards.

Take, for instance, the one case of the landing of the
2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers in Gallipoli, which so far
has not been justly appreciated. The tardy recognition
that came to the battalion came so late that many whose
work should have been recognised had fallen, and only
the Victoria Cross is given posthumously. Many, of
course, fell on the day of the landing ; but many more
had passed away before recognition came to the survivors.
One or two regiments were seen to fall in heroic action, and
their story ran on every one's lips. But other men quite
as heroic fell unmarked, frequently unnoticed, by their
fellows, and sympathetic friends try to soothe wounded
hearts at home by recollections which are frequently found
to be incompatible. If I were asked to say what incident
in the three landings in Gallipoli,] "X," " W " and " Y,"
appealed most to me, I should say with little hesitation
it was the stand of the gallant company (" X ") of the
Royal Fusiliers under Captain Leslie on the left of the
" X " beach. The company dwindled to a platoon in the
day's fighting. Leslie himself fell. But he held off the
repeated onslaughts of the Turks, protected the landing
of the 87th Brigade, and made possible that swift march
to the right that secured elbow-room for the Lancashire
landing.

My story therefore is probably not more unjust than in
any case it must have been. It is impossible here to set
down all the books I have consulted. I have read all I
knew to be published. It is also impossible to thank all
who have helped me. Without the help of Generals
Donald and Newenham I could not have made much
headway, and I have received the most generous help



PREFACE ix

from all to whom I have appealed, from Colonel W. Hill,
Lieut. -Colonel T. R. Mallock, and Lieut.-Colonel Malone,
especially. As it was wholly impossible within the space
to do full justice to the personal side of the story, a long
appendix has been devoted to accounts of soldiers who
actually took part in the various operations. I must
thank those who have kindly allowed me to use their
contributions. I have also to thank Captain Gibson, of
the Infantry Records Office, and Mr. A. E. Dixon, of the
Committee of Imperial Defence, for bearing with an
ambitious and continuous series of demands.

But, of course, the responsibility for the book is wholly
mine, and I trust it is not altogether an unworthy tribute
to the war record of the Royal Fusiliers.

H. C. O'N.



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

I. Reveille ....... i

II. First Battles— Mons to the Aisne . . 33

III. Flanders— La Bassee, Armentieres, Ypres 51

IV. The First Spring Campaign— Neuve Cha-

pelle, Ypres 64

V. The Summer Operations— Loos ... 76

VI. The Great Adventure — Gallipoli . . 86

VII. The Battle of the Somme. . . . 109

VIII. The German Retreat and the Battle of

Arras ....... 152

IX. The Battle of Messines .... 175

X. The Third Battle of Ypres . . .182

XL The Battle of Cambrai .... 205

XII. Interlude 220

XIII. The German Offensive .... 230

XIV. Salonika 261

XV. East Africa 269

XVI. The Hundred Days — First Battles . . 281

XVII. The Hundred Days— Last Battles . . 311

APPENDIX.

The Roll of Honour 337

Decorations awarded to the Royal Fusiliers . 358



Xll



CONTENTS



General Officers ....
The Battle of Le Cateau
The Landing at Gallipoli
Description of the Flood at Gallipoli
"No. 8 Platoon" ....

The Somme

Recollections of Miraumont

The 2oth Battalion visit the Coast

Bourlon Wood and after

Life in the Lines (February to March



1918)



PAGE

359

365

367

37i

374
386

39°

393

401

4°3



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



FACING
PAGE



King George V. . . Frontispiece.

Major-General Sir Geoffry Barton, K.C.V.O.,

C.B., C.M.G., Colonel of the Royal Fusiliers . 10

Corporal G. Jarratt, V.C., 8th Royal Fusiliers . 24

Sergeant S. G. Pearse, V.C., M.M., 45TH Royal

Fusiliers 24

Brig.-General N. R. McMahon, D.S.O. ... 34

Lieutenant M. J. Dease, V.C., 4TH Battalion . 38

Major-General Sir Reginald Pinney, K.C.B. . 64

H.M.S. Implacable with the 2nd Royal Fusiliers

approaching " X " Beach, Gallipoli . . 86

The 2nd Royal Fusiliers at the top of the Cliff,

" X " Beach, Gallipoli 88

Brig.-General H. E. B. Newenham, C.B. . . 92

Major-General Sir W. B. Hickie, K.C.B. . . no

Lance-Sergeant (later Lieutenant) F. W. Palmer,

V.C., 22ND Royal Fusiliers .... 156

Private S. F. Godley, V.C., 4TH Royal Fusiliers. 156

Lance-Corporal C. G. Robertson, V.C., M.M., ioth

Royal Fusiliers 198

Sergeant Molyneux, V.C., 2nd Royal Fusiliers . 198

Lieut. -Colonel N. B. Elliott-Cooper, V.C., D.S.O.,

M.C. 212



XIV



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Captain R. Gee, V.C., M.P

Captain W. N. Stone, V.C., 17TH Royal Fusiliers
Lieutenant W. Dartnell, V.C., 25TH Royal Fusi

LIL*I\S •••••••

Major-General Sir Sydney Lawford, K.C.B.

Major-General Sir Charles Townshend, K.C.B
D.S.O., M.P



FACING
PAGE

214
2l6



2l6
280

310



MAPS.

Map to illustrate the Battle of the Somme . 151

Map to illustrate the Fighting about Ypres . 204

Sketch Map of German East Africa . . . 273

Map to illustrate the Stages in the Fighting of

the Hundred Days ...... 336



THE ROYAL FUSILIERS IN
THE GREAT WAR

CHAPTER I

REVEILLE

At the outbreak of the war there were four regular and
three special reserve battalions of Royal Fusiliers, besides
the first four (City of London) battalions, the London
Regiment (Territorials), who are affiliated to the regiment.
Before the armistice forty-five battalions had been raised,
thirty-five of which served overseas ; the Territorial
battalions had thrown off numerous duplicates, and there
had been formed the ioth Cadet Battalion, also a Royal
Fusiliers unit. Omitting the last mentioned, there were
formed in all before the armistice fifty-nine Royal
Fusilier battalions.

Even so summary a survey gives one pause. It is
obvious that already more battalions have been enu-
merated than took part in the first battle of the British
Expeditionary Force ; and the regiment does not diminish,
but grows, as the inquiry into its numbers and services is
prosecuted. At the battle of the Somme there were a
greater number of Royal Fusiliers engaged in France than
the total allied force at Inkerman. The depot dealt with
a body of men (153,000) exceeding the whole of the
original Expeditionary Force, and although not all of them
were necessarily drafted to the regiment, the total number
of Royal Fusiliers must have exceeded the total number of
combatants in any of the great battles of the nineteenth
century, with the exception, perhaps, of half a dozen.

It is a difficult matter to give the exact number of men

F. B



2 ROYAL FUSILIERS IN THE GREAT WAR

who passed through the regiment during the war.* Clearly
the number was very considerable. Apart from the City
of London Regiment, a rough f estimate would give about
195,000. This may be taken, at any rate, as a first
approximation. The 29th Londons numbered about 3,681,
and the 30th about 2,807. ^ we a ^d these and also the
number attributable to the 1st (c. 9,408), 2nd (c. 8,133),
3rd (c. 9,199), and 4th (c. 7,248) Londons, we get a total
of 235,476 men who wore the badge of the Royal Fusiliers
during the war. It is a great number ; and, even with the
changed regard for numbers which the war insensibly
produced, it is impossible to think of it but as amazing.

So great is the roll of the regiment that it may be taken
to be the British Army, or indeed the British race, in little.
If you seek men of leisure, you may find them here ; if
sportsmen, here they are ; if bankers, accountants, stock-
brokers, lawyers, men of science, administrators, poets,
writers or 100,000 cockneys grousing in a characteristically
hearty manner and concealing a wealth of heroism and
kindliness under a proper protective irony — here they are.
In fine, here is the British race in frieze and fustian.

*p *J* *n 1*

It will be useful to assemble the battalions in summary
form.



Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers during the Great




War.


1st.


Regular.


2nd.


Regular.


3rd.


Regular.


4th.


Regular.


5th.


Reserve (Dover).


6th.


Reserve (Dover).


7th.


Special Reserve, France, 23/7/16.


8th.


Service.


9th.


Service.



* The war is taken as having ended on November nth, 1918

f This estimate is called " rough " because it is difficult to determine

its precise accuracy. But it is given only after a very careful survey

with the help of the Records Office.



NUMBER OF BATTALIONS 3

10th. (Stockbrokers.)

10th (b) (Intelligence Corps.)

nth. Service.

12th. Service.

13th. Service.

14th. Training, later 31st Training Reserve Battalion.

15th. Training, later 32nd Training Reserve Battalion.

16th. Training, later 22nd Training Reserve Battalion.

17th. (Empire.)

18th. (1st Public Schools.)

19th. (2nd Public Schools.)

20th. (3rd Public Schools.)

21st. (4th Public Schools.)

22nd. (Kensington.)

23rd. (1st Sportsman's.)

24th. (2nd Sportsman's.)

25th. (Frontiersmen.)

26th. (Bankers.)

27th. Training Reserve, later 103rd Training Reserve

Battalion.
28th. Training Reserve, later 104th Training Reserve

Battalion.
29th. Training Reserve, later 105th Training Reserve

Battalion.
30th. Training Reserve, later 106th Training Reserve

Battalion, then 459th Infantry Battalion, then

51st Young Soldiers' Battalion.
31st. Training Reserve, later 107th Training Reserve

Battalion, then 265th Infantry Battalion, then

52nd Young Soldiers' Battalion.

32nd. Service (East Ham).

33rd. Labour.

34th. Labour.

35th. Labour.

36th. Labour.

37th. Labour.

38th. (Jewish.)

39th. (Jewish.)

40 th. (Jewish.)

41st. (Jewish) Training Reserve.

B 2



ROYAL FUSILIERS IN THE GREAT WAR



42nd. (Jewish) Training Reserve.

43rd. Garrison, raised in France, 25/9/15.

44th. Garrison, raised in France, 25/9/15.

45th. North Russian Relief Force, Park Royal, 8/4/19.

46th. North Russian Relief Force, Park Royal, 8/4/19.

47th. New Garrison, raised Hounslow, 14/5/19.

City of London Battalions.

1st Londons* . 3 overseas battalions and 1 reserve.
3 overseas battalions and 1 reserve.
3 overseas battalions and 1 reserve.
3 overseas battalions and 1 reserve.
[ Home service battalions of low category
men, many of whom had been over-
( seas and disabled.
* * * *

The brigades and divisions in which the Royal Fusilier

battalions spent the greatest part of their service overseas

may be seen at a glance from the following table : —

1st Battalion . ) ., _, . ,

17th Brigade



2nd Londons
3rd Londons
4th Londons

29th Londons
30th Londons



12th
2nd Battalion
3rd Battalion
4th Battalion
7th Battalion
8th Battalion
9th

10th Battalion
13th



I



86th Brigade

85 th Brigade

9th Brigade

190th Brigade

36th Brigade
1 nth Brigade



54th Brigade
19th Brigade
99th Brigade
99th

5th

5th



24th Division.

29th Division.

28th Division.

3rd Division.

63rd Division.

12th Division.

' 37th Division.
(34th Division, July
and August, 1916.)
18th Division.
33rd Division.



2nd Division.



nth Battalion

20th Battalion

22nd Battalion

23rd

17th

24th

* In order to avoid confusion the Territorial battalions Royal
Fusiliers are referred to throughout this book as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th
Londons. The Regular and Service Battalions are referred to as " 1st
Battalion," or " 1st Royal Fusiliers"; "2nd Battalion," "2nd Royal
Fusiliers," etc.



WORK OF THE DEPOT



26th Battalion

32nd

1/1 London Regt.

i/3

i/4

1/2

2/1 London Regt.

2/2

2/3

2/4



124th Brigade
123rd

167th Brigade
167th
168th
169th



41st Division.



56th Division.



173rd Brigade . 58th Division.



Some idea of their war service may be gathered from the
table given on pp. 6 and 7, which summarises the move-
ments of the Regular and Service battalions. The move-
ments of the Londons do not yield as readily to tabular
arrangement.

SJS 3£ )|C 5(5

For the first year of the war large numbers of recruits
for the regiment arrived at the depot, were given a few
hours of squad drill and, if time allowed, a little elementary
musketry. They were then sent off in batches as soon as
the various battalions could receive them. At times the
nucleus of a whole battalion was despatched in one day.
At first clothing and necessaries presented considerable
difficulties, and in many cases recruits were sent off in
their civilian suits. A little later a plain blue serge
uniform and a field service cap were issued ; and, when
the cold weather set in, civilian overcoats of various shapes
and colours were provided. At this time there was a
serious shortage of blankets ; but, as the result of appeals,
a number of sympathetic civilians brought upwards of
1,000 blankets and rugs to the barracks. Later on, when
these were no longer required for the troops, they were
distributed among a number of hospitals.

In the early days the task of dealing with the large
number of recruits devolved upon a very limited staff,
composed for the most part of old Royal Fusiliers, either
over military age or unfit for active service. Towards



ROYAL FUSILIERS IN THE GREAT WAR



t/5
OS

U



\M

<

O

«

M

K
H

O

w

Z

o

►J

«<

H

H

<;

m

w
>

OS

w
C/3

Q
Z

<

OS

<

O

w

«

w
ac
H

b
O

H
Z

w

a

w
>
o



00 I



en



•jsquis^dss

•qoj-ej^

■jaquiaAOM
•J3qui3;d3s

•qoJBp\[

•XjBiiiref

•jaqmaAO^



10 j



S^






•qDJBi\[
•A\renui3f

\I3qiU303Q

•J3qo?oo

•}sn§ny

•sunf

qudy

•AuBiuqaj

•J3qiU3D3Q

usqopQ
•}snSny



•jsquisidss £



w
o
z

<:

OS

Pn



a

W

I

w

w
Z
<
Q

os

■<

Q
I

o
z
W

I

<

Q
Z



M CS



o
z

<
os



I— >

z
o

►J

<

en



w
u

z
<



o
z



w
u
z

<:
os



w
o

z
<;
os

h



w
o
z

<

OS



w
o
z

<:

OS



u
z



w
o
z

<:

OS



w
u
z
<

OS



o
z

<
os



ro tJ- tN 00



Ch



m M



ro



H






MOVEMENTS OF THE BATTALIONS



7



w
o

z

«

fa



1


1


w


w


o


u


z


z


<:


<j


a!


«


fa


fa


1


1



w
o

z

OS



o

z



fa fa



a
o
z

<

OS

fa



I

w
o
z

«

fa



w
o
z

<

fa



H



o

5

p-

H

1/3
«J

fa



o

z

fa



H

a.

O
fa



H

O

fa



I

H

O

W



<



w
o
z
<

fa



w


W


CTi


u


u


HH


z


z


ri-


<!


«:




Ki


C4


00"



fa fa



EC

u



o

a
o

C/J

• f-H
)-l

u
a)

a






U

O
fa



T3
en



0)

o
o

fa

<-M

«

ri

• t— i

w

(/i



o



CO CTi m
i-i m <N W






O ro "*■ u-> v£>

^ + -t ^ +



8 ROYAL FUSILIERS IN THE GREAT WAR

the end of 1914 twelve metropolitan policemen were lent to
the depot, and for the months they remained at Hounslow
they proved a very efficient help in the training of the
recruits. Sometimes the accommodation was strained
almost to the breaking point, when large bodies of men
were sent to the depot at very short notice. " Labour "
recruits from all over the country were the first to test
the depot in this way. Later on, numbers of men for
substitution from various units arrived at the barracks
and stayed for some time as " the Substitution Com-
pany." Bodies of men discharged from hospital were also
quartered at Hounslow and put through a course of
' hardening " before being returned to their reserve
units. There were also agricultural companies ; and,
towards the end of the war, several thousands of " Im-
perial recruits," nominally British subjects, recruited in
U.S.A. and South America, had to be accommodated
at the barracks. It is hardly necessary to say that the
work represented by all these activities was immense.

The first four battalions were Regular battalions which
served with great distinction throughout the war. Two
of them, the 2nd and the 4th, each gained two Victoria
Crosses. The 5th and 6th were Reserve battalions. Both
of them mobilised at Hounslow and went to their war
stations a few days after the declaration of war, the 5th
under Lieut. -Colonel Vivian Henry and the 6th under
Lieut. -Colonel R. C. Batt, M.V.O. There they formed part
of the Dover defences and, fully equipped for the field,
manned defensive positions. Drafts were prepared for
the Expeditionary Force, and within a few weeks began
to arrive in increasing numbers. The work became
very strenuous. Instructors had to be improvised, the
battalions at times being over 4,000 strong, with numerous
recruits under training. Before the end of June, 1915,
80 officers and about 3,000 men had been sent to the front
by the 5th Battalion alone. Sent to Carrickfergus, Ireland,
at the end of 1917, the 6th Battalion had the pleasure of
entertaining for three days about 600 N.C.O.'s and men



RAISING OF THE BATTALIONS 9

of the American Expeditionary Force who had been
rescued from the S.S. Tuscania, torpedoed off the Irish
coast early in 1918.

The 7th (Extra Reserve) Battalion after demobilisation
reported daily to Finsbury Barracks for roll call, lectures,
etc., until August 8th, when it entrained, 18 officers and
750 other ranks strong, for Falmouth. Before leaving
London 100 men, under the command of Major the Hon.
A. C. S. Chichester,* had marched to the Guildhall and
handed over the battalion colours to the Lord Mayor for
safe custody.

The battalion, at first commanded by Lieut. -Colonel
Cockerill f and later by Lieut. -Colonel R. S. I. Hesketh,
became a draft-finding unit and, like the 5th and 6th
Battalions, sent out periodic reinforcements to the Fusilier
battalions overseas. This continued until July, 1916,
when the 7th mobilised for service in France, becoming
part of the 190th Brigade of the 63rd (Naval) Division.

Some of the battalions formed during the war were the
direct product of the units already existing. The 8th and
9th, both sendee battalions, began in this way. A draft
of one officer (Lieutenant T. G. Cope) and 100 O.R. left
the depot on August 15th for Colchester in company with
a similar draft under Lieutenant D. E. Estill to form the
8th and 9th Battalions respectively. The 8th was
reinforced by a draft of at least 500 from the 5th Battalion,
and on August 21st Lieut. -Colonel A. C. Annesley arrived
to take over command. This battalion secured two
Victoria Crosses during the war. Lieut. -Colonel J. C.
Robertson was the first CO. of the 9th, and both batta-
lions, after a period of strenuous training at Colchester and
Aldershot, left for France at the end of May, 1915.

The 10th (" Stockbrokers' ") Battalion was raised at the
direct suggestion of Sir Henry Rawlinson, then Director
of Recruiting, by Major the Hon. R. White. In a letter

* Later transferred to the Irish Guards.

f Transferred to War Office on August 4th. He became Director
of Special Intelligence.



io ROYAL FUSILIERS IN THE GREAT WAR

to the latter at the Travellers' Club Sir Henry stated his
belief that there were " many City employes who would
be willing to enlist if they were assured that they would
serve with their friends." Major White was asked to
collect the names and addresses of those who would be
willing to serve in the service battalion of the Royal
Fusiliers. The battalion, which would be composed
entirely of City employes, would be sent abroad as soon
as it had attained a sufficient standard of efficiency. The
letter was dated August 12th. Recruiting began on the
21st, when 210 men presented themselves. The following
day the battalion was 425 strong ; it was 900 on the 24th,
1,300 on the 25th and 1,600 on the 27th. The numbers
speak for themselves ; but they represent the result of a
careful selection among the eager flock who presented
themselves. Parading in all sorts of clothing, from silk
hats and morning coats to caps and Norfolk jackets, the
battalion was inspected on the 29th by Lord Roberts in
Temple Gardens, and marched thence to the Tower Ditch,
where they were sworn in by the Lord Mayor, Sir W. Van-
sittart Bowater, who afterwards became Honorary Colonel.
The battalion proceeded to Colchester to begin training,
their first CO. being Lieut. -Colonel Hawker, D.S.O., who
was succeeded in November by Lieut. -Colonel the Hon.
R. Wbite. In July, 1915, they went to France, where
they won many decorations, including a V.C. (Lance-
Corporal Robertson) and suffered 2,647 casualties.

There was a twin to this battalion, differing wholly in
characteristics from it. How it was raised cannot be told
in a few words. Its description was " 10th Battalion
Royal Fusiliers or Intelligence B," abbreviated I (b).
It seems, like Topsy, to have just " growed." The first
nucleus was provided by a small body of men from
Scotland Yard especially selected for their knowledge of
French and German. It performed mysterious and
wonderful things, such as forming the buffer state between
a colonel and a babel of tongues. This representative
of I (b), a professor of languages, had to explain any lapses




Major-General Sir Geoffry Barton, K.C.V.O., C.B., C.M.G.,
Colonel of the Royal Fusiliers.



THE INTELLIGENCE BATTALION n

from discipline to the colonel, and any punishments
inflicted on behalf of discipline to the recruits who were
possessed of the gift of tongues. The latter appears to
have been the more wearing task, though only by a shade.
In France their work consisted in the detection of German
agents. Working generally in civilian clothes, the small
nucleus expanded into a numerous body of officers and
men, recruited for their knowledge of languages, from
various units. In civil life these men represented the
oddest mixture of classes. There were some of those
mere idlers who pick up a variety of languages from their
penchant for travel. One was a travelling showman of
Russian bears, who piloted performing bears from the



Online LibraryH. C. (Herbert Charles) O'NeillThe Royal fusiliers in the great war → online text (page 1 of 38)