Mar 22 12 12:43 PM

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I'm taking my step-daughter to the Salient next week to help her understand where her great-grandfather fought during The Great War. He was in the 2nd Battalion Wiltshires and I've just this morning found out, from the Battalion War Diary, that they arrived in Ypres on the 15th October 1914, moved out to Hooge, and were then involved in actions between Becelaere and Terhand between the 17th and the 26th October. He was wounded and taken prisoner on the 25th October.

Could anyone point me at books or shed any light on the action during these few days please? We're off to Ypres on the 29th March so time is short - any help most gratefully received.

I've used Paul's book 'Walking The Salient' previously. Can anyone recommend a particular walk that would take in all of Hooge - Becelaere - Terhand?

Thanks in advance,
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#1 [url]

Mar 27 12 8:57 PM


From my own research into Village ladswho served 1914-18

CLARKE, James.
Age given: Born Purton.
Address / Next Of Kin, family details: NOK Mr Clarke, Prios Hill, Wroughton.

MIC details / Medal entitlement.
3/8776 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment.

British War Medal, Victory Medal, 14 Star (Clasp and Roses), Silver War Badge.

Extracts from: Wilshire Regiment records.
05/10/1914 Embarked Southampton with the Battalion.
07/10/1914 Arrived in France (Detail from MIC). 2nd Battalion diary records landing at Zeebrugge onboard
either SS Turcoman or SS Cestrain. They entrained and proceeded to Bruges by rail.
24/10/1914 1st Battle of Ypres, the 2nd Battalion stands in the way of the German assault.

24/10/1914 Battalion War Diary; About 5.30am (just before daybreak) the enemy attacked in a very superior force but were driven back with heavy loss. They attacked again, and after about 2 hours of almost continuous fighting in which the enemy lost hundreds in killed and wounded, they broke through the lines having previously contrived to come around on our left through trenches that had been vacated with the exception of about 30 NCOs and men mostly from trenches on right the remainder of Battalion were either killed or captured, a large number being captured. Cpl Alderton who had escaped from trench on left of BECELARE road together with Privates Dunn Holister and Jones being apparently last to leave the trenches, gathered stragglers together and formed a rear guard to Brigade ambulances by opening out in skirmishing order. On arrival at 7th Divisional HQ he was met by Cpl Bull, and in the evening the APM took party numbering 26 back to Brigade HQ where they met Cpl Richens and 50 men which included about 12 Lance Corporals. The majority of these men had been driven from their trenches by artillery fire the previous evening. The Quarter master hearing that Lieut McNamara was wounded visited him at the field hospital and afterwards about 4pm collected the 50 men above mentioned taking them to Brigade HQ and was informed that no news of Battalion had been received since early morning. NOTE: special mention should be made of the gallant worth of Capt Comyn, the medical officer and stretcher bearers who for the last three days and nights were continuously handling wounded or burying dead.
(Reproduced with permission from The Wardrobe).

The 2nd Wiltshire's fight at Reutel is a very important battle in the Regimental History. From the Parish list you will see a number of Purton men were taken POW during this action. The men listed below have been confirmed as taken POW after the Battle as found listed at the Regimental Museum in Salisbury:


Here is a brief account of the Wiltshire’s actions leading up to and including the fight at Reutel taken from Col Kenrick’s "The Story of the Wiltshire Regiment": The Battalion spent a month in the New Forest near Lyndhurst, where the 7th Division was forming. On 7th October they landed in Belgium at Zeebrugge, the Wiltshires being part of the 21st Brigade. The original plan had been for the 7th Division to assist in the defence of Antwerp, but this town was captured by the Germans on the 9th October, on which day the Wiltshires were near Bruges. Four days later they were the last troops to leave Ostend, which the Germans entered close on their heels. The enemy was now advancing on the Channel ports in great strength, and the 7th Division was given a line to hold east of Ypres, pending the arrival of the main British Army from France.

The Wiltshires reached Ypres after dark on 14th October after marching all day. Next morning the Division advanced east and very few were to return. The Battalion moved through Hooge and, on 17th October, were entrenched astride the road in the area of Reutel and Bedelaere, about six miles east of Ypres. In the afternoon some German cavalry patrols, approached Bedelaere, and so a reconnaissance patrol was sent out. It was discovered that the Germans were in Terhand, a Village two miles south-east of Bedelaere. On the 18th October the Division moved east again, the Wiltshires occupying Terhand, from which the enemy withdrew. Digging in beyond the Village, the Battalion was shelled from the south. Next day it was learnt that an enemy Army Corps was advancing from Courtrai and the 7th Division withdrew to their original positions, covered by the Wiltshire’s, who did not get back to Reutel until after dark.

On 20th October the Battalion set out once more for Terhand to cover the left flank of the 22nd Brigade, who were,
making a reconnaissance in force. As the Wiltshire’s Vanguard topped a rise-near the Village they came under heavy fire. Two Companies became involved as the order to withdraw arrived from Divisional Headquarters. Before dark the Battalion was back in Reutel. Twice during the night the Germans attacked in great strength, but the Regiment’s tremendous rapid rifle fire drove them off. All next day they were heavily shelled. That afternoon an order from Brigade was received to say that the present position must be held at all costs. The Wiltshire’s occupied the Village of Reutel and a plateau to the left of it. The British artillery lacked equipment, their observation was limited and their fire weak, gradually ceasing, as the day wore on. The German infantry assaulted in wave after wave of close-packed ranks, each time to be mown down by that rapid rifle fire. After dark the enemy artillery shelled the Wiltshire’s rear, making it difficult in getting up ammunition and food to the exposed plateau. Nowhere had the German attacks been heavier, and the fire in reply more devastating, than on the right flank. During the night, the Brigade on the left was forced to withdraw to a position a mile back, it having become so weak, forcing the last reserve to dig in on that flank. The dawn of the 22nd October found the Wiltshires in one thin line, with many rifles damaged from days of continuous rapid fire, and by dirt and sand from bursting shells. This day was a repetition of the previous one, with repeated assaults and the German guns being brought ever closer. By the morning of the 23rd many of the trenches had been destroyed by shell fire. Casualties mounted, all the wells were out of action, Brigade Headquarters were asked for 100 more rifles. Some reinforcements arrived a small party of South Stafford’s, who suffered heavily, and three platoons of Scots Guards. Information was received of a probable relief next day, which cheered the men, weary, but determined and immovable. As the Commanding Officer said, the assurance of some artillery support would have been better news still.

Early on the morning of the 24th the German guns opened up with an accurate and devastating bombardment. In a short time most of the Battalion’s trenches were again destroyed, and their rifles giving more trouble. The enemy attacked in strength south of Reutel and an isolated company of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who were on the Wiltshire’s right, were overrun by 6 a.m. Before either Battalion Commander could be told of what was going on, the Germans had captured Reutel and were established in large numbers on the Wiltshire’s right flank and rear. About 8 a.m., masses of the enemy emerged from Reutel and a re-entrant behind it, and, supported by enfilading machine guns, artillery fire and frontal attacks, mopped up the remains of the Battalion from right to left. Men were shot from the rear, a bayonet charge or other retaliation was impossible, and at the same time an attack was developing round the left flank that final assault on the Wiltshires had been made by seven complete Battalions.

The 2nd Wiltshire’s had left England on 5th October 1,100 strong. In this battle some 28 officers and 850 men had been killed wounded or captured.

24/10/1914 Reported missing, later confirmed as a POW, (Becelare / Reutel, Belgium).
Held captive at No 34244 camp, Hameln. He listed his Next Of Kin as Mr Clarke, Prios Hill,
12/01/1919 Arrived at Hull, a repatriated POW.

HAMELN Prison camps in Austria and Germany (Mrs Pope-Hennesey).
On the banks of the Wesser near the influx of the Hamel. The prison camp is placed on low ground with wooded hills behind it. It is a mile from Hameln town, and the parent camp for many working camps. It consists of 100 barracks, all the same type, radiating from a central point. Theatre and Y.M.C.A hall. 10th Army Corps run.

Evidence for inclusion on the Purton Parish list: Wiltshire Regiment records.

Researching the village of Purton & its Great War story (Purton , Nr Swindon Wilts )

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#4 [url]

May 6 12 8:52 PM


I have been in contact with Simon, a succesfull field trip was had.


Researching the village of Purton & its Great War story (Purton , Nr Swindon Wilts )

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#5 [url]

May 7 12 1:18 PM

Glad you enjoyed the trip Bob, and I hope the step-daughter was interested
in seeing where her ancester fought in the Great War.

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#6 [url]

May 8 12 9:59 PM

Sorry, bit late in posting this but I've thanked Bob offline for the help he gave me.

It was a fantastic trip thanks. Because it was my step-daughter's first visit, I used Paul's well-thumbed Walking The Salient as the basis for our trip. This is a 17 year old girl who moans at walking half an hour with the dog. In Ypres, she was up at 07.00, breakfasted and out walking by 08.00 and only back to the Ariane about 17.30.....not a word of complaint.....she loved it and was caught up in the atmosphere of the many places we walked (Hill 60, Sanctuary Wood Walk, Messines Walk, Passchendaele Walk, Ypres Town Walk, Ploegstraat Wood Walk, plus many other stops such as Essex Farm, Brandhoek, Croenaart, etc). She took about 1000 pictures and has done a lot of 'then and now' overlays for her A Level Photography presentation.

Based upon the info Bob posted, plus what I read in the short time before we went, I produced a booklet of the 2/Wiltshire's involvement in the First Battle Of Ypres which I gave her the night before we walked around Becelaere, Terhand and Reutel. To be honest, there's not a lot to see and, given the early period of the war, no trench maps to guide us. She was over-awed though to think she was walking in the steps of her great-grandfather, the first person in her family to do so. Some of the fields around Reutel had very uneven surfaces which may suggest shell damage but I was only able to generalise and say 'this is probably the area where he was wounded and taken prisoner'.

I think she's caught the WW1 bug and is still on a high from the visit 5 weeks later.


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#8 [url]

Jul 4 12 5:49 PM

Reutel is just the other side of the "ridge" as Terhand. I guess the Wiltshires were in the 7th Division?

Interesting enough, Terhand is also the area were the 36th Ulster Div won a VC in 1918, as far as I know it was their last.

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