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

The Royal fusiliers in the great war online

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brigadier-general in command of the 190th Brigade while they
were devoted to coast defence and draft-finding. In 1917 he was
attached to the Staff in France. He was awarded the C.B.E.

Brig.-General H. Newenham commanded the 2nd
Battalion in the landing at Gallipoli and was severely wounded.
He was later employed in the War Office and in command of
an area. He was awarded the C.B. for his services at Gallipoli.

Brig.-General B. G. Price was a major in the 1st Battalion
R.F. from August, 1914, to April 5th, 1915, when he received the
brevet of lieutenant-colonel and took command of the 7th Bat-
talion Warwickshire Regiment. In July of the same year he was
in command of the 1st Battalion R.F. as lieutenant-colonel until
February 5th, 1916, when he became brigadier-general com-
manding the 150th Infantry Brigade. He took part in all the
battles of his brigade until March 1st, 1918, when he went to
Plymouth and remained there till October 1st, 1918. From
October 20th until the Armistice he commanded the 152nd LB.
in its advance from the Scheldt to Mons. He received the
brevet of colonel, and was awarded the C.B., C.M.G. , D.S.O.,
and several foreign orders.

Brig.-General A. C. Roberts, C.M.G., D.S.O., commanded
the 3rd Battalion in France and Salonika, and was promoted to
a brigade in the latter theatre.

Brig.-General Gordon S. Shephard, D.S.O. , M.C., flew
over to France with the first five squadrons on August 13th,
1914. He received the Legion of Honour from General Joffre
for good reconnaissance work during the retreat from Mons ;
and in January, 1915, he won the Military Cross. He was pro-
moted temporary major and squadron commander R.F.C. on
December 1st, 1914. Subsequently he became brevet major
and brevet lieutenant-colonel, received the D.S.O., and was five


times mentioned in despatches. For the last year he was in
command of a brigade of the R.F.C. He was one of the
youngest brigadiers in the army when he was accidentally
killed early in the year 1918.

Brig. -General C. T. Shipley, C.B., commanded the Notts
and Derby (afterwards called 139th) Brigade (T.F.) in the
46th North Midland Division from August 4th, 1914, until
June, 1917 (in France from February, 1915) ; and the 193rd
Brigade at home from August, 1917, until April, 1919. He was
awarded the C.B.

Brig. -General G. A. Stevens, C.M.G., D.S.O., was
adjutant of the 8th Durham Light Infantry (Territorials) ;
went to France with the battalion April 18th, 1915, and served
as adjutant until December 20th, 1915, when he was given
command of the 6th Durham L.I. (T.) with rank of lieutenant-
colonel. On April 25th, 1916, he joined the 8th Canadian
Infantry Brigade as brigade major, with rank of major. On
July 12th, 1916, he joined the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
in command, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. On July 20th
he became commander of the 2nd R.F. He took over command
of the 90th Infantry Brigade on November 13th, 1917, with the
rank of brigadier-general, retaining this appointment until the
disbandment of the brigade in September, 1919. He was
awarded the D.S.O. January 14th, 1916 ; promoted brevet
lieutenant-colonel January 1st, 1917 ; received the Belgian
Croix de Guerre January 10th, 1919, and the C.M.G. June 3rd,
1919 ; and was six times mentioned in despatches.

Brig.-General W. F. Sweny was in 1915 promoted from
major 4th Battalion R.F. to command the 2nd East Yorkshires.
He was wounded at Hill 60 and again at Turko Farm. On his
return to France he was given command of the 61st Infantry
Brigade ; and in June, 1916, he was again wounded in Ypres
while making a personal reconnaissance. Rejoining again in
1917, he commanded the 72nd Brigade in the fighting at Vimy
Ridge and Messines. After a short rest in England he com-
manded the 41st Infantry Brigade in 1918 during the crossing
of the Lys (when he was awarded the Legion of Honour)
and the crossing of the Scheldt. Seven times mentioned in
despatches, he gained the C.M.G. and D.S.O.

Brig.-General H. A. Walker in 1914 was brigade major
in the Meerut Division, and subsequently commanded the
16th Infantry Brigade until he lost his left arm in action on


October 16th, 1918. Nine times mentioned in despatches, he
received the C.M.G. and D.S.O.

Brig. -General Hon. R. White raised and commanded the
10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, was promoted to command the
184th Infantry Brigade in 1916, and retained his command
until March, 1918, when he was severely wounded. Six times
mentioned in despatches, he was awarded the C.B., C.M.G. and
D.S.O. , and promoted to the rank of brigadier-general.


We * halted on the near side of Inchy just as it started to
pour with rain, and then, to put the lid on it, we were taken
for outposts. This was the worst da}' we had at all ; for some
time I had been having a job to get along at all, what with my
feet and chafe, and the men were dead beat. However,
D Company were not taken for outposts after all, they were
only in support, so we did get some sleep in. Also I got my
boots off for the first time for six days, and managed to buy a
pair of socks and some boracic powder, after which I was a
new man. At dawn of the 26th we moved back through Inchy
and took up an entrenched position behind it at Cambrai. We
dug trenches frantically for a short time, but there were not
enough tools, and no facilities for overhead cover, and very
little time.

When we had done what we could, the 5 th t relieved us in
the trenches, and we were ordered back in support. By this
time the artillery duel was in full swing. Behind the position
was a little sunken lane running parallel with the position, and
just as we were getting back to this a hail of shell burst right
over the battalion. My platoon was sitting down just by the
lane, and the first shell knocked over five men and punctured
my water bottle. We then doubled about 20 yards into the
lane, where there was a good deal of confusion, and on the
right there was a short panic before the officers got the men
under control. I am glad to say my platoon did not get out of
control at all.

We then lay in the lane all day, quite snug. Pellets of all
sorts whistled over our heads, but down in the lane there was
practically no danger, and we were able to cook and eat a hot
meal. Our guns pounded away hour after hour, and in front
the rifle fire kept going pretty steadily. At about one there
was a lull in the firing, and we all thought we had beaten them

Suddenly they opened a tremendous burst of firing in the

centre of the line, to our right. All their guns seemed to be

* 4th Royal Fusiliers.

j Northumberland Fusiliers.


concentrated on a village that was there, and about 3.30 the
order came for a general retirement. Then I saw a sight I hope
never to see again. Our line of retreat was down two roads
which converged on a village about a mile behind the position.
Down these roads came a mob. Men from every regiment were
there, guns, riderless horses, limbers packed with wounded,
quite unattended and lying on each other, jolting over ruts, etc.
It was not a rout, only complete confusion. This was the
Germans' chance. One battery of artillery sent forward or
one squadron of cavalry would have turned this rabble into a
complete rout, and the whole army would have been disposed
of and cut up piecemeal. Meanwhile we were the only regiment
I saw in any order. We had not been engaged, and had only
lost 1 officer (Sampson, hit in the stomach) and about 30
men ; we had also had a hot meal, so that we were in good
condition. When the retirement was ordered we went back
in a succession of extended lines, in absolute order, and formed
up behind a farmhouse near where the roads met. Here we
waited in mass, while the rest of the army streamed past. It
was a most trying half-hour. It seemed inevitable that they
would follow up, and then the jam in that village would have
been indescribable. I have since heard that they had sustained
fearful losses, and also a division of French cavalry was covering
our retreat. When the rabble had got past we moved off,
marching at attention, arms sloped, fours dressed, etc., through
the village. By this time the rest of the brigade had formed
up, and we took up a covering position behind the village,
which we hung on to, expecting an attack any moment ; but
it never came, and about 7 p.m. we moved off again, and
marched till 1 a.m. I believe we got a good mark for this show
from Smith-Dorrien and Hamilton. Of course, we had no
reason to lose our formation, but a panic is very catching, and
there is no doubt that at one time we were the only troops who
could have put up any show at all. — Extract from the diary of
Lieutenant Frederick Longman, killed at Herlies, October 18th,


We had several reconnaissances by air and sea. I took part
in one on the Queen Elizabeth, which was most interesting, from
Lemnos. We had assembled here transports and fleet, a
splendid sight, and here we practised landing and getting men
into boats, rowing, etc.

On the 23rd, by night, the ships containing the covering
force, i.e., 86th Brigade, consisting of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers,
Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Royal Munster Fusiliers, Lancashire
Fusiliers, and warships, sailed to Tenedos, where we lay on the
24th and completed necessary transfers of men to warships,
etc., etc. Half my battalion and headquarters went on board
H.M.S. Implacable about 7 p.m., from which ship we had been
practising getting into boats, and so on ; the other half-
battalion, under Brandreth, went on board a fleet minesweeper
for the night. At about 10.30 p.m. we all sailed for the
Gallipoli peninsula, arriving there by night. We had a good
breakfast on the Implacable at about 3.30 a.m. We then pro-
ceeded to load up the boats, four rows of six boats each and a
steam pinnace, about 25 to 30 men in a boat besides the six
bluejackets to row when the pinnace cast us off. At 4.45 a.m.
the bombardment by the fleet began, twelve or fourteen
battleships (including the Queen Elizabeth, with 15-inch guns)
all blazing away with all guns possible. You never heard
such a din, but that was nothing to when we landed. About
5.15 we started off in our tows with our mother-ship, the
Implacable, in the middle, like a most majestic eagle and her

The captain of the Implacable, Lockyer, is a splendid chap.
Indeed, the whole lot are top hole. He had his anchor hanging
with a few feet of spare cable and took his ship right in along
with our boats till the anchor dragged ; it was a very fine
thing to do, and most undoubtedly saved us many losses in
the boats and landing.

All the officers and men of the Implacable were splendid and
most awfully good to us ; they fed the men in the evening, and


gave them a splendid hot meal at 3.30 a.m., which made all
the difference to them in the bad time that was coming. How-
ever, to continue, while we (W and X Companies) were being
towed towards our beach, called "X," the remaining half-
battalion (i.e., Y and Z Companies), on the minesweeper, were
coming on. They were to come in as far as the vessel could go
and then be landed by the boats in which we were when we
had got on shore. Very soon the ships had to stop firing on the
beaches, and then at once the enemy opened fire, and then
began such an awful carnage as I hope I may never see any-
thing like again.

As regards our half-battalion in the boats, we got off in the
most extraordinary way while getting ashore. I can only put
it down to the way the Implacable plastered the beach at close
range. However, we were to have our bad time later on.

As we were being towed ashore a few rifle shots sang over us
and round us. I think we only lost a few men actually in the
boats. About 100 yards from the shore the launches cast us off,
and we rowed in for all we were worth till the boats grounded,
then jumped into the water, up to chest in some places, waded
ashore, then swarmed up the cliff, nearly perpendicular, but
fortunately soft enough for a good foothold. The cliff was about
100 to 120 feet high. As soon as we got up we came under fire
from front and both flanks. However, we pushed on and got
into one of their trenches. Meantime the other half-battalion
was landing. I then sent one company (X Company), under
Frank Leslie, to the left front, one (W Company) straight on
and to the right front. The fire was very hot from rifles,
machine guns, and shrapnel, and our losses were very heavy
at once. However, it was absolutely necessary to secure a
footing to enable the beach to be used, so we went on. I can
never say enough for the gallantry of the men under these
really trying circumstances, exposed to fire from front and both
flanks and losing heavily. I had instructions to join up with
the Lancashire Fusiliers who were landing at " W " beach
and to capture Tekke hill, so I gave orders to hold on left and
front and took all I could muster (about seven platoons) to
attack Tekke. This we eventually captured with the bayonet
and got a good many prisoners.

To go back a moment, as we were rowing ashore we saw the
Lancashires also rowing under a tremendous fire, one or two
boats adrift with nearly all in them killed or wounded, so I


knew that there would not be many of them ashore. At about
7 or 8 a.m. I got signal communication with brigade west of
Tekke through H.M.S. London, and learned that I was in
command of brigade (General Hare being wounded). I could,
of course, not get there at present. I also got signal communi-
cation with the King's Own Scottish Borderers from " Y "
beach to say that they and Anson Battalion had landed, but
could not join up (they were about three miles north of us).
I also learned by signal later on that the landing on " V "
beach was hung up for the present.

To return, it was more than ever important to capture
Tekke now, so we pushed on and eventually reached the hill,
which was strongly entrenched, with some mined trenches in
front of it. The hill was taken about noon under view of the
Implacable, whose crew cheered us on. I was wounded here,
but managed to carry on for a bit and eventually, with the
help of Crowther, my servant, managed to get into a sort of
gully with some more wounded, where we were more or less
under cover. Shafto then came to me about 3 p.m. and told
me that our centre, which was necessarily very weak, was
falling back. I sent a telephone message to our beach, where the
87th Brigade were now landing, and some time later we got
reinforcements from the Border Regiment. In the meantime
our party were very nearly cut off and captured ; it was a most
unpleasant time. The men made a splendid stand, and we were
reinforced about 4 p.m. I was then obliged to get to the
dressing station. I had had my foot " first-aided," and with
Crowther 's help managed to get to the station, the most
unpleasant journey I ever had.

We lost Frank Leslie, Scudamore, Brickland, C. de Trafford,
killed during the morning, and 12 other officers wounded,
George Guyon shot in the head, Brandreth (slight), Totty had
his arm amputated three times, Winslade shot through thigh,
Daniell broken thigh, Collings shot through chest just above
heart, Hanham right arm (slight), and self.

The tremendous fire of the warships did very little damage
to the enemy's trenches, which were very good and elaborate,
but all stone work was knocked flat.

Our beach was a mass of enormous holes from the fire of
H.M.S. Implacable.

Our brigade was washed out temporarily, as the losses were
so heavy. The remainder of the battalion joined to the Hamp-

F. B B


shires to make one battalion. The Dublins and Munsters were
joined also.

My battalion had lost, killed and wounded, on May ioth,
20 officers and about 800 men.

We hung on during the night, and were attacked five or six
times. — Letter from Lieut. -Colonel H. Newenham from Gallipoli,
April 2jth, 1915.


A Great Disaster

It was a dark night in the trenches at Suvla Bay, and
November 26th will long be remembered, and perhaps spoken
of, in years to come. The men had just " stood to," and the
sergeant-major reported " Garrison's correct, sir," when a
terrible clap of thunder, worse than a bombardment of high
explosive, broke the stillness of the night. This was followed
by zigzags of lightning which appeared to split the heavens in
two, and then rain fell as only it can fall in the tropics. Within
half an hour the trenches held a foot of water, rushing so
quickly that it was difficult to stand. At 7 p.m. the barricade
gave way, and a solid wall of water 7 feet high swept into the
trench, carrying everything and everybody before it. By
8 p.m. the flood had reached its height, and the force of the
water had somewhat abated, so that I was able to swim from
a tree to No. 1 Platoon. The men were on the parados of the
trench up to their breasts in water. It was the same with
No. 2 Platoon. Only about nine rifles had been saved. No. 3
Platoon had gathered on a high bit of land, and having no trees
to hang on to, had formed groups and were clinging to each
other. No. 4 Platoon were fighting for their lives, their part
of the line being a maze of trenches, many of which had been
washed away, burying men in the mud and making it very
difficult for the men to retain a footing anywhere.

At 2 a.m. the water began to subside, and the men were set
to work to construct a breastworks behind the trenches. No
tools being available, we had to do this by scooping up handfuls
of earth, and by dawn a resemblance of cover had been formed,
and we found it useful, for the enemy gave us about a dozen
shrapnel. To add to our comforts, it began to freeze hard, and
a snow blizzard came down, and the whole of the place was soon
covered by snow. Many of the survivors of the flood died from
exposure. With the help of the sergeant-major, I counted the
company, and of the 139 only 69 remained. It was soon

B B 2


discovered that the ration party had been drowned, and all the
food or drink we had was one gallon jar of rum. This we
issued out, and Private Oldfield, who had swum to head-
quarters, brought up orders that the line was to be held
at all costs. This order was also brought to me by the

During this time — the first night — the cheerfulness of the men
was marvellous. The slightest joke or mishap produced roars
of laughter. By eight o'clock I had a few rifles in working order,
and we were able to return the firing of the Turks. But I gave
the order to cease firing as soon as the enemy ceased, and during
the whole of the 27th very little rifle fire took place. All day
the weather was freezing, and more men died. Towards night
it turned to rain, and it was impossible to move.

At 2 a.m. 28th the commanding officer brought me half a
bottle of whisky and told me that the adjutant and himself
were the only living persons at the battalion headquarters.

At 3.30 a.m. the adjutant brought me two officers to help
me — all my own officers and most of the N.C.O.'s had gone
under — and told me to let the men who could not fight make
their own way to the Red Cross station. I passed the order
on to each platoon and about 30 men left, hardly one of
whom could walk upright, most of them having to crawl
through the mud and water on all fours. I then counted up
and found I had only 27 living souls in the firing line and
only ten rifles in working order.

About 5.30 the order to " retire to brigade headquarters "
came along, and, after waiting for X Company to get clear, the
company started in the following order : No. 1 Platoon,
No. 4, No. 2, No. 3. I stayed with the last four men. We had
hardly gone 30 yards before the first, third and fourth man
were killed, the two first shot through the head and the latter
through the heart. Ten yards further the other man got it,
and as I lifted him to dress his wound the breath rushed out
of his body with an awful sound. I remember falling in the
mud and sticking a bayonet in the ground to help me out, and
the next clear thing was Lieutenant Wilkinson rubbing my
feet and bending my toes. They did hurt. On Tuesday,
30th, the corps commander, Sir Julian Byng, inspected the
battalion, 84 strong, survivors of 661 O.R. and 22 officers.
Poor W Company mustered two, Sergeant-Major Paschall and


W Company.

Total strength

• 27

Distribution : —

Effective .

. 18


• 9

Distribution of effectives : —

Signallers .


Sergeants .

• 4

Regimental dump*

. 10

Other ranks

• 3

Robert Gee.



Gee, V.C., M.P.)

* Eight reported i


"No. 8 PLATOON."*
By H. E. Harvey, D.C.M., M.M.

" Presence of mind and courage in distress
Are more than armies to command success."

' Duff, old son, that's my kip, and I'm ' getting down to it '
right now."

Duff looked at the speaker with an annoyed air, but pro-
ceeded to drag his " gear " — full marching order, bomber's
' kosher," rifle, a couple of gas helmets and a blanket — along
the dirty floor of the disused and darkened French brewery at
Hersin, in search of a space yet unclaimed.

The whole battalion was tired and " fed up " with daily
plodding back to the line, and courtesies were scarce.

" Hi ! keep your ugly feet out of that ' possie,' " yelled one
termed " Spud," partaking of a meagre supper — a mass of
jam on a biscuit.

Duff turned slowly and contemplated the youngster in
silence. Then came a shriek and a muffled curse from beneath
another grimy blanket, on which the forlorn bed-seeking Duff
had planted a heavy foot.

He wandered off.

" Say, Vic, can't you shove a bit for your old pal ? " And,
thus finding room, he pulled off his boots, and, after roughly

* This sketch refers to the counter-attack by the 22nd Royal Fusiliers
at Vimy Ridge May 22nd — 23rd, 1916. The salient facts are true, and the
following decorations were given in connection with the episode : —

Distinguished Service Order.

Captain William Archibald Miller, M.B., R.A.M.C, Spec. Res.
(attd. 22nd (S.) Bn. R. Fus.).
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Capt. Miller
followed the front line of our attack over ground swept by shell,
machine-gun and rifle fire. He searched in every direction for
wounded, and gained valuable information regarding the situation.
This he at once communicated, and again continued his search
for wounded. This officer has on previous occasions shown
distinguished gallantry.

Military Cross.

and Lt. Richard Hugo Gregg, 30th Bn. (attd. 22nd (S.) Bn. R. Fus.).

For conspicuous gallantry and initiative. His senior officer

being wounded in attack, 2nd Lt. Gregg took command of the

company, and on reaching the captured trench at once consolidated

VIMY RIDGE, MAY 22ND, 1916 375

arranging his tackle and extinguishing the stump of candle
was, like the majority of B Company, soon sleeping soundly.

The crowded and inhospitable billet, save for snores, was
noisy no longer.

Maybe an hour had passed, when, though few were conscious
of it, heavy feet clambered up the rickety iron staircase outside
the building, and, thrusting aside the sacking that hung across
the doorway, the orderly sergeant lumbered into the room.
Kicking a couple of the nearest blanketed figures, he shouted,
" Stand to, every man ! D'yer hear that, yer blighters ?
Full marching order ! " then vanished to spread the joyous
news elsewhere.

The gentlemen so rudely aroused each contrived to thrust
forth a grubby, sleepy face, and asked the other " what the

all the racket was about." Seeing no others moving,

they contented themselves with the conclusion that some
" chump " had been " vin-rougeing," or had had an extra lot
of rum, and curled up once more to slumber.

One or two others, also disturbed, lay awake a while in the
dark, discussing the undreamed-of occurrence.

" What the devil's the game now ? " demanded " Press."
He was dubbed " Press " because of his wonderful capacity
for collecting, magnifying and spreading rumours.

" Stand to ! What the devil next ? What's he talking
about ? 'Blige me ! that's a very poor joke. "

the position. Then, finding that his flanks were unsupported, he

Online LibraryH. C. (Herbert Charles) O'NeillThe Royal fusiliers in the great war → online text (page 32 of 38)