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

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The German barrage was very heavy, and the machine-
gun fire so intense that the whole line was held up on the
west of Ooteghem. Lieutenant A. E. Chambers and
Second Lieutenant H. M. Tuck with their platoons
attempted to enter the village from the right, but were
driven back, both officers being mortally wounded. An
attempt was made to rush the windmill on the ridge south-
west of Ooteghem. Lieutenant T. Robinson, of A Com-
pany, was killed in a first gallant dash ; but it was eventually
captured. After further heavy losses, including Lieut. -
Colonel H. A. Robinson, D.S.O., the battalion dug in for
the night. Fighting patrols were pushed forward next
day, but the battalion were relieved before they had
reached the Scheldt, and the battle line saw them no more.
To Mormal Forest. — Meanwhile the Selle positions had
been taken, and the army now opened an attack having for
its objective the general line Valenciennes — western edge
of Mormal Forest-Sambre-Oise Canal. With this advance
the junction of Aulnoye, which links up the Mezieres and
Hirson main line with the Maubeuge, Charleroi and main
lines to Germany, would be brought under effective fire.
The 24th Royal Fusiliers took up positions west of Vertain
on the night of October 22nd, and at 3.30 a.m. D Company
attacked the village, C advancing against the road running
eastward from it an hour later. Both objectives were
gained by 5.10 a.m., though the task of reducing the village
was by no means easy. They captured 250 prisoners and
between fifty and sixty machine guns and much other
booty. They were billeted in the village that night, and
on the next morning the 23rd Royal Fusiliers carried the
line still further forward by the capture of Ruesnes. With
comparatively few casualties they cleared and consolidated
the village, and sent outposts forward to the railway.


They were assisted in their operations by the 4th Royal
Fusiliers. On the ridge below Ruesnes were numerous
field guns, and when the 4th Battalion crossed the river
Ecaillon at 4.24 on the morning of the 24th, and began
their advance up the slopes of this ridge, they came under
point-blank fire from these guns. Many prisoners, with
light and heavy machine guns, had already been captured ;
and with a concerted Lewis-gun fire the German gunners
were put to flight, and three field guns were taken. The
battalion then continued their advance to the final
objective, the western end of the Ruesnes- Le Quesnoy
road. Their left flank lay just off the road from the north-
eastern corner of Ruesnes to the railway. The battalion
were very weak, and all four companies were in the line.
The 4th Battalion with their brigade thereafter held the
main line of resistance until relief, the 8th Brigade pushing
on to gain touch with the retreating enemy.

The nth Battalion attacked in the moonlight at
1.20 a.m. from the railway embankment north-east of
Le Cateau ; and, being the second wave, came under a
very heavy bombardment as they advanced after the
Bedfords. At the outset they had to move in single
file across a narrow footbridge ; and, as a heavy barrage
was playing upon it, there was a certain amount of
nervousness. Captain Horn feck at once pushed forward
and stood calmly at this danger spot until all the men
were across. In the half-light, the Bedfords halted about
500 yards short of their objective, and on this line the
nth Royal Fusiliers passed through, Captain Hornfeck's
company reaching their objective near the Epinette
Farm road. But in this position they were isolated and
were under fire from both flanks. After two hours of
this ordeal they were compelled to fall back to the ridge
above the road, where they found the other companies ;
and the 55th Brigade passed through their line at 7.30 a.m.
The battalion were about two companies strong by this
time, but they had alone captured eleven field guns and a
considerable number of prisoners.


The attack was resumed on the next morning, and again
there was some confusion in the darkness, as a consequence
of which the Royal Fusiliers became involved in the
fighting before they reached the line on which they were
to pass through the Northants. They had to beat off a
German counter-attack at Bousies Wood Farm, and when
they were able to advance they found the ridge in front
of them swept with machine-gun fire. A pause was made
in order that the position might be further treated by
artillery ; but the barrage, when it came down, caused a
number of casualties in our own ranks. Lieutenant E. L.
Moody had become the commanding officer of three
companies. He reorganised them when held up ; and,
freely exposing himself under machine-gun fire, he was
more than a little responsible for the battalion's final
advance. Lieutenant P. E. Tyler also showed outstanding
courage, and although shot through the lungs, continued
in the direction of his company for some three hours until
he collapsed. At night the troops held a position near
the Robersart-Englefontaine road.

On the second day (24th) of the battle the 13th Royal
Fusiliers attacked from the north of Salesches, the way
having been cleared up to this point in a spirited attack
of the 10th Battalion on the preceding day. Some
casualties were caused by the enemy bombardment as
the troops were assembling, and, in the darkness, there
was a certain amount of confusion and lack of direction ;
but at length the battalion advanced, No. 3 Company and
two platoons of No. 2 forming a defensive flank on the
right against the enemy, who were still holding the high
ground south-west of Salesches station. Shortly after
5.30 a.m. the left company (No. 4) were held up by wire.
The advance was resumed at seven o'clock, and the
Ecaillon was crossed, the two platoons on the left wading
across some 500 yards from the western edge of Ghissignies.
In the village a few prisoners were captured and added to
the collection, which had been steadily growing from the
beginning of the advance. East of Ghissignies heavy fire


was experienced from a chapel, and the leading platoon

of No. i Company were wiped out. The left company

were also held up by machine guns, and when they were

reduced to a strength of 40, they were withdrawn and

moved north-east to the orchard beyond the road. No. 1

Company retired to the main line in front of the village,

and at 6 p.m. the line was consolidated. On the following

day the battalion attempted to push forward once more,

but were held up near the De Beart Farm. The battalion

were relieved at 9 p.m. on this day, and received the

congratulations of the divisional commander for their

" fine work." With 120 prisoners and numerous guns

and trench mortars and an advance of about 5,000 yards

to their credit, they deserved congratulations ; but they

had lost 108 officers and men and were now reduced to

11 officers and 269 other ranks.

* * * *

The war was now ringing to a close. The Royal
Fusilier battalions who had been engaged in constant
battles since the opening of the offensive on August 8th
were many of them worn to the shadow of their former
selves. The wastage in officers had been terribly high ;
and yet, filled out with drafts, frequently young men of
little training, they appeared in the fighting line once
again. The astonishing thing is that they entered battle
with the flair of the expert and were prepared for all risks.
The last battle was now to be fought. Germany's allies
had all forsaken her, and she had herself abandoned every
fiction and requested an armistice.

The Battle of the Sambre. — At dawn on Novem-
ber 4th the First, Third and Fourth Armies struck from
the Sambre, north of Oisy, to Valenciennes. On the left
flank of the attack the 4th Londons crossed the river
Aunelle at Sebourg and then turned northward to Sebour-
quiaux and cleared it of machine guns. A Company, on
the left, were unable to secure touch with the Canadians,
and came under heavy machine-gun fire from Rombies ;
but when Sebourquiaux was cleared they were able to


advance to the Aunelle. The main bridge had been
destroyed, but they crossed by a footbridge and formed a
defensive flank across the river. On the right the bat-
talion were in touch with the Queen's Westminsters,
but on the left their flank was still in the air. They were
relieved the next morning on these positions, and other
battalions of the division carried the line forward. At
midnight on the 5th the 2nd Londons relieved the London
Rifle Brigade, and suffered heavy casualties in moving
into position. On the following morning they advanced
after the barrage across a deep ravine, covered with thick
undergrowth, to the Honnelle. The river was at this time
swollen with the recent rains, and its steep wooded sides
formed admirable cover for the German machine guns.
C and D Companies reached and crossed the river, but,
both flanks being in the air, were almost surrounded, and
had to fall back to the western side. A and B also forced
their way across and advanced to the railway at the edge
of the Bois de Beaufort. But beyond this the ground
was swept by machine guns, and the flanking battalions
could not be located. The Germans pressed round their
left flank, but were put to flight by a bayonet charge.
Another party of the enemy got through the wood to the
rear of the detachment, and the officer in charge called
out, " Hands up ! " Half of the small detachment delivered
another bayonet charge in reply. It was obvious that to
recross such a river under such pressure was an extremely
difficult operation ; yet, under the direction of Captain
Rowlands, M.C., the detachments retired, taking their
wounded with them. The battalion reorganised along
their assembly positions and were relieved in the evening,
after a total loss of 5 officers and 107 other ranks, sustained
in attempting an operation that no troops in the world
of equal strength could have carried out.

The 1st Royal Fusiliers attacked on November 5th,
advancing from Jenlain, and on the high ground east of
Wargnies le Grand, passing through the 73rd Brigade.
After an advance of about 5,000 yards the troops came


into contact with the enemy about 1,000 yards west of
the Hogneau stream, which casts a wide loop about Bavai,
to the east. At this point there was considerable machine-
gun fire, and the barrage put down did not affect the
position. The battalion therefore held their ground for
the night. At dawn on November 6th the battalion
advanced, but were held up on the east bank of the river,
as all attempts to carry the high ground to the east proved
unsuccessful. The German rearguards were very stubborn
on this part of the front. The next day the 3rd Rifle
Brigade passed through the battalion, who on the 8th
went into billets at Bavai, where they still lay on Novem-
ber nth.

On the 37th Division front both the 13th and the 10th
Royal Fusiliers were engaged. The latter were to pass
through the 13th King's Royal Rifles, who were to mop
up the village of Louvignies and advance to a line about
500 yards to the east. At this point the 10th Royal
Fusiliers were to pass through and advance about 1,000
yards. At five o'clock in the morning all companies were
in position on the railway, on which shells had been fall-
ing throughout the night. Lieutenant A. N. Usher, M.C.,
commanding A Company, was killed at this point. Half
an hour later the companies, advancing under the barrage,
encountered several machine-gun posts, which they
reduced. D Company went through the village, killing or
taking prisoner all the Germans met with, and the battalion
reached their objective in schedule time. About 8 p.m. that
night they went back to Beaurain after a finished little
engagement in which, for a total loss of 52 officers and
men, they had captured 300 prisoners, three field guns,
a motor lorry and a large number of machine guns.

The 13th Battalion were to pass through the Essex on
the Red Line, nearly 3,000 yards further east, on the edge
of the forest. In Ghissignies at 7.35 a.m. they came
under heavy fire, and machine-gun bullets were whistling
across the road. The companies were halted outside
Louvignies for the Essex to come up, and at 9.40 this


battalion had passed through. After crossing the
Louvignies-Le Quesnoy road under fire at 10.45 a.m.,
they lost touch with both flanks owing to the enclosed
nature of the ground. About noon B Company was
moving after the Essex through Jolimetz and helping to
mop it up ; and A Company, after helping the Essex to
reduce a machine-gun pocket south-west of the village,
was moving forward towards the Red Line. At 3.45 p.m.,
after surmounting the difficulties of assembling owing
to the thick undergrowth, the companies began to enter
the forest. It was already growing dark. There was a
spasmodic machine-gun fire down the railway and the
laies, and the battalion made but slow progress. They
were only about the strength of a full company, and the
German Army a year before would have made a jest of
dealing with such a force in the forest. At 6 p.m. four
platoons had reached the cross-roads about the railway,
where a machine gun was captured and the team killed ;
and had formed a strong point there. Posts were thrown
out to the cross-roads about 500 yards to the south-west,
where contact was made with the 8th Somerset Light
Infantry. Platoon No. 9 of B Company was out of touch.
This platoon, under Sergeant W. Green, M.M., had with
great daring pushed on through the wood in complete
darkness to the point where the Villereau-Berlaimont
road is crossed by two other roads. At this point on
November 4th the continuous area of standing trees
ended, though there were other considerable patches of
standing trees about 4,000 yards to the east. The
platoon, completely isolated, dug in, patrolling for 1,000
yards to the east, and held on until morning, when the
5th Division passed through. The rest of the battalion,
nearly 1,000 yards distant on the right rear, could find no
troops on their left. Sergeant Green's platoon, in fact,
was the only unit for at least 1,000 yards north and south
which reached the dotted Red Line.* By 5.30 a.m. on

* So far as I can discover, it was the most easterly post held that night
on the British front. Sergeant Green was awarded the D.C.M.


November 5th the battalion were on this line, and when
they were passed by the 5th Division they went back to
Le Rond Quesne.

At 6.15 in the morning of the 4th the nth Royal
Fusiliers attacked Preux au Bois. A composite company
with the Bedfords and a company of the 6th Northants
moved from a position north of the village already taken
by the rest of the Northants, while the rest of the nth
Battalion demonstrated from the west. By eight o'clock
the composite company (C and D) were in position to
clear the village from the north. Captain Hope, com-
manding this company, although held up by machine-gun
nests and the breakdown of the tank which was to deal
with them at the beginning of the attack, eventually
" succeeded in breaking through with some 20 men.
Without waiting for the remainder, he at once pushed on
with such effect that he succeeded in clearing up the
whole area, capturing over twenty machine guns and
some 200 prisoners, including 5 officers. The success
of the attack in this area was entirely due to his leadership
and determination, while the example of coolness and
courage he gave was beyond all praise."* By 11 a.m.
other battalions were pushing ahead, and the nth Royal
Fusiliers' work was done.

On the morning of November 4th the 3rd Royal
Fusiliers took up assembly positions astride the Fontaine
au Bois-Landrecies road, about 1,000 yards south-east
of the village of Fontaine. The weather was damp and
misty, and when the battalion advanced about 500 yards
the leading companies were out of touch, and the support
company went up to rill the gap. It was about this
point that the 13th Royal Highlanders were held up
on the Englefontaine road. The German machine-gun
defence was very elaborate on this sector of the front,
and without the co-operation of the tanks it is difficult
to see how it could have been crushed by such light forces.
About 8 a.m. the Scottish Horse were across the road,

* Official account. He was awarded the D.S.O


and the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, who had been mopping up a
few houses on their front, resumed the advance. The
village of Les Etoquies was reached and cleared, and by
about 11.30 the Red Line was reached and the objective
consolidated. The Red Line lay some 3,000 yards from
the starting point and about 1,500 yards from the Sambre.
The outposts of the battalion extended to about half the
distance to the river. The total casualties for the day
were 120 officers and men, including Captain Murray
Large, who was killed on the tape line. Field guns,
machine guns, wagons and horses were among the captures.

The troops reached Hachette Farm, north of the rail-
way near the Maroilles road, at 5 p.m. on November 5th,
and spent the night there. On the following day the
battalion began to follow up the retreating Germans,
crossing the Sambre below Hachette Farm and advancing
through Laval. Little opposition was encountered, and
when in the evening two Germans, fully equipped, were
met with on the road, they were so surprised that they
screamed with fright. At 8.30 p.m. on the 7th the 3rd
Battalion were in billets at St. Remy Chauss6e when an
order was received that deserves record : " If German
officer bearing a flag of truce presents himself at any point
of British front, he will be conducted to the nearest
divisional headquarters and detained there pending
instructions from G.H.Q."

This was welcome news. Weariness was almost the
chief handicap of the time. The transport animals were
in poor condition owing to overwork, and still there was
not enough transport. Blankets and great-coats had been
dumped at Fontaine for this reason, and on November 7th
wagons were sent for them. The roads were very heavy
and much damaged by mines.

* * * *

On November 8th the 7th Battalion were heavily
engaged. On the preceding day they had moved through
Sebourquiaux, taken on November 4th by the Londons,
and at noon on the 8th they moved along the Andregnies-


Witheries road without opposition, but met heavy machine-
gun and trench-mortar fire before Offignies. After a brisk
fight the enemy fell back, after inflicting five casualties.
The battalion advanced again on November 9th, carried
the Montroeul wood and the Eugies-Sars La Bruyere road,
and reached a position on the road from Quevy le Petit to

the Mons-Maubeuge road.

* * * *

The 3rd Royal Fusiliers advanced to Mont Dourlers on
the 8th under heavy machine-gun fire, and amid the sounds
of exploding mines which told their tale of continued
retirement. Patrols on this evening were sent to the
western edge of the forest of Beugnies. Before dawn on
the following day the patrols began to push through the
forest. On the left they came under machine-gun fire,
but the centre company were through the wood by 5 a.m.
A few hours later the battalion were withdrawn to Mont
Dourlers to billets, thoroughly exhausted, but pleased with
having seen the last of the enemy in the war.

On November 10th the 7th Battalion reached the
Nouvelles-Harveng road with little difficulty at 8.30 a.m.
The 188th Brigade went through them at this post, and in
the afternoon the battalion proceeded to Harveng and
billeted there for the night. They were still in this village,
a few miles south of Mons, when the Armistice took effect
the next morning. On November 15th 5 officers and 180
other ranks embussed to Mons and took part in the formal
entry of the First Army commander.

The 4th, 17th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th Battalions went
into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. The
long-drawn-out war had come to an end. The individual
share of any regiment in the final victory it were unwise
to estimate. But at least it may be said in a final survey
of the achievement of the Royal Fusiliers in Egypt, in
Africa, in the Balkans, and on the main Western front,
that everywhere they showed themselves worthy of the
traditions they inherited, in fine, a very gallant company.




Adams, Ernest Frederick, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 26/Bn., k. in a., 22/6/17.
Adams, Ralph Newton, M.C., Capt., k. in a., 10/10/16 (7/Bn., att.

R.F.C., 23/Sq.).
Addis, David Malcolm, 2/Lt., 26/Bn., d. of w., 9/6/17.
Aldrick, Charles Pelham, 2/Lt., 26/Bn., k. in a., 7/10/16.
Allen, Archibald Stafford, Lt. (Tp.), 8/Bn., k. in a., 3/10/15.
Anderson, William Francis, Capt., d. of w., 10/12/15.
Andrews, Alan Charles Findlay, 2/Lt., 16/Bn., k. in a., 29/6/15.
Andrews, John Leonard, M.M., 2/Lt. (Tp.), 10/Bn., d. of w., 19/5/18.
Anketell, C. E., 2/Lt., killed, 11/5/18 (R.A.F.).
Annesley, Albemarle Cator, D.S.O., Lt.-Col. (Tp.), 8/Bn., d. of w.,

Anstice, John Spencer Ruscombe, Lt., 2/Bn., k. in a., 2/5/15.
Anthony, Clarence Case, Capt. (Tp.), 13/Bn., d. of w., 15/12/15.
Aris, Thomas Arthur, Lt. (Tp.), 23/Bn., k. in a., 16/4/17.
Armstrong, Christopher, 2/Lt., k. in a., 9/4/16 (14/Bn., att. 6/N. Lan. R.).
Armstrong, John Owen, 2/Lt., 10/Bn., k. in a., 15/7/16.
Arnold, A. C. P., 2/Lt. (Tp.), 18/Bn., k. in a., 7/7/16.
Arnould, Derek Clement, Lt., died, 7/5/18 (4/Bn., att. R.T.E.).
Aspden, Ronald William, 2/Lt., 5/Bn., d. of w., 8/8/17.
Astley, Aston Giffard, Major (Tp\), k. in a., 1/10/16 (att. M.G. Corps).
Astwood, Edward Leicester Stuart, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 26/Bn., d. of w., 20/9/16.
Attwood, Algernon Foulkes, Capt., k. in a., 8/10/14.
Ayres, Victor Albert, 2/Lt., 4/Bn., k. in a., 1/9/18.
Ayrton, Frank Frederick Joseph, Capt., 16/Bn., k. in a., 28/6/15.
Backlake, Brian Ashber, Lt. (Tp.), 8/Bn., k. in a., 3/5/17.
Badenoch, Ian Forbes Clark, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 20/Bn., died, 19/3/17.
Baker, Bertram Reginald, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 17/Bn., k. in a., 3/5/16.
Baker, John Bartrup Harwood, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 8/Bn., k. in a., 1/9/1.
Balbirnie, John Victor Elphinstone, 2/Lt., 23/Bn., k. in a., 7/9/18.
Bambridge, Rupert Charles, D.S.O., M.C., M.M., Capt. (Tp.), 10/Bn.,

d. of w., 23/5/18.
Bambridge, William Herbert, Lt. (Tp.) (A/Capt.), 24/Bn., k. in a.,

Banister, Charles Wilfred, 2/Lt., k. in a., 16/6/15.
Banks, Edward Francis, 2/Lt., 2/Bn., k. in a., 28/2/17.
Bantock, Arthur Thomas, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 13/Bn., d. of w., 23//11/15.
Barber, George, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 16/Bn., k. in a., 3/10/16.
Barker, Hugh Edwin, 2/Lt., 6/Bn., died, 31/1/18.
Barnes, Edward James, 2/Lt., 5/Bn., d. of w., 4/5/18.
Barnes, Vincent Kendall, 2/Lt., 24/Bn., k. in a., 29/4/17.
Barnes, Wilfred Oliver, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 10/Bn., k. in a., 18/11/16.
Barnett-Barker, R., D.S.O., Brig.-Gen., 22,/Bn., k. in a., 25/3/18.
Barnett, Bret Hercules, 2/Lt., 11/Bn., k. in a., 10/8/17.
Barnett, Herbert William, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 26/Bn., k. in a., 20/9/17.
Barrell, Victor Henry, 2/Lt. (Tp.), n/Bn., k. in a., 22/8/18.
Barrett, Keith Joy, Lt. (Tp.), 2/Bn., d. of w., 16/4/17.

F- Z


Barrow, Hector Henry, 2/Lt., 8/Bn., k. in a., 20/10/15.

Barten, Donald, 2/Lt., 8 Bn., k. in a., 30/1 1/17.

Barton, Frank Hubert, 2/Lt. (Tp.), k. in a., 5/11/18 (att. T.M.B.).

Barton, Kenneth Cyril, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 9 Bn., k. in a., 7/10/16.

Barton, Stanley Ernest, 2/Lt., k. in a. 31/7/17.

Batty-Smith, F. C, Lt. (Tp.), 13/Bn., k. in a., 4/6/16.

Baugh, Charles, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 9/Bn., d. of w., 5/4/18.

Bayly, Harry Ayrton, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 12/Bn., k. in a., 14/6/17.

Bayley, Reginald John, 2/Lt., 13/Bn., k. in a., 29/4/17.

Beale, Ernest Frederick, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 17/Bn., k. in a., 28/4/17.

Beausire, Herbert Arthur William, 2/Lt., k. in a., 16/3/15.

Bentley, Howard Lidyard, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 2/Bn., k. in a., 28/2/17.

Berrill, Bernard Francis Gotch, Lt., 6/Bn., k. in a., 1 7/3/1 5.

Berry, A. L., 2/Lt., 8/Bn., k. in a., 7/7/16.

Bescoby, Edgar Laurence, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 12/Bn., d. of w., 18/6/17.

Bettesworth, Tom, 2/Lt. (Tp.), d. of w., 3/11/15 (12/Bn., att. R.E.
172/Fld. Coy.).

Betts, Henry Lee, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 26/Bn., k. in a., 20/9/17.

Bevir, R., 2/Lt. (Tp.), 10/Bn., k. in a., 15/7/16.

Bingham, Frank Oldfield, 2/Lt. (Tp.), 8/Bn., d. of w., 14/9/18.

Birchall, Arthur Percival, Capt. (T/Lt.-Col.), k. in a., 24/4/15 (att. Can.

Online LibraryH. C. (Herbert Charles) O'NeillThe Royal fusiliers in the great war → online text (page 28 of 38)