2nd Lieut. Baillie Chisholm Munro, 2nd Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps, M. C.
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,Loved and were loved, and now we lie,In Flanders fields.Take up your quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break the faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields."John Alexander McCrae
Baillie Chisholm Munro
at Altnaharra, Sutherland at 10 a.m., on 23 May 1884, his father
William Munro being the innkeeper there.
still at the Altnaharra Hotel for the census on 31 March 1901 as a 16
old scholar, living with his widowed innkeeper mother Annie Gordon
Munro nee MacLeod, his father William having died at Altnaharra on 30
April 1895. Some time after the 1901 census, Baillie and his elder
brother Donald MacLeod Munro studied mining engineering at
Baillie emigrated to South Africa, departing Southampton on 22 September 1906 as B. C. Munro on board the
'Kinfauns Castle' for Cape Town:
MacLeod Munro left for Cape Town on the 'Walmer Castle', departing
Southampton on Christmas Day 1906, listing his occupation as engineer. Of
the fifteen passengers on the manifest, three were engineers and two
were miners, South Africa being a land of opportunity for those prepared to work hard, and chance their arms:
than following their uncles John and David to Kimberley where diamond
mining was then in decline, Baillie Chisholm and Donald MacLeod went to
Johannesburg, where gold had been discovered on the Langlaagte farm
earlier in 1886, and what was then a tent farm, by 1904 had became
a city with a population of 155,000, of whom 83,000 were whites.
The brothers settled at Langlaagte Deep, and were there when it
over by Crown Mines Limited in 1909.
A portrait of Baillie taken at Johannesburg
Within a year, Donald
and Baillie had moved 650 miles or so north to the mines around
Rhodesia, a small and inhospitable open pit gold mine, so called
because the claims were named after famous battles. They may have
remained in the employ of Crown Mines Limited, as they were located at
Crown Mine when at Battlefields.
Battlefields can be found
today, not that you would want to, off the main road from Harare to Bulawayo, between Kadoma and
Kwekwe, in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe:
was near here that Donald MacLeod Munro died from the bite of
a mamba snake, on 14 November 1910. Mr A. T. Hutchinson,
"Hutch", an engineer who had arrived at Cape Town on the
'Guelph' in November 1909, was with Donald when he died, and later
wrote a detailed account of the incident to Donald's mother at
Inverness. Hutch wrote from Valhalla Mine, Hartley on 19 June 1911,
that Donald had visited the Crown Mine, where Hutch and Baillie were,
on the morning of 14 November 1910, and after breakfast Donald and
Hutch decided to explore ground seven miles from Crown that might be
gold bearing. With the help of a native bearer, they had almost reached
their destination, travelling mostly over burnt out ground where they
had good visibility, but in an area of long grass Donald, who was a
dozen paces to the right, shouted "Look out Hutch; snake". Hutch
looked towards him, and saw an eight foot brown mamba heading
their way. The native boy went one way and Hutch the other, as the
snake was right on them, but at this point Donald, who had started to
run for cleared ground, shouted "Come on Hutch, he has bitten me." By
the time Hutch got to him, Donald had already bared his leg and
had taken out a lance, and the permanganate of potash that he always
carried for such occasions, but in his haste he had opened the outfit
at the wrong end, and lost some of the potash. As it happens permanganate of potash, or Condy's
crystals, would not have helped, as it was later established
that the treatment only destroyed venom on the surface, and was useless
once the poison was in the tissues. Donald
lanced the wound himself, and Hutch rubbed in the remainder of the
potash, while instructing the native boy to get bark from a tree to
make a tight tourniquet, so the poison would not circulate. Hutch then
instructed the boy to return to camp for six more boys, potash, and
whiskey, but the native was so fearful of returning alone, that Hutch
could only get the desired result by threatening to shoot him. Black
mambas, or brown as here described by Hutch,
are the longest species of venomous snake in Africa, and also the
fastest moving, being capable of speeds up to six miles per hour over
short distances. Without immediate, and vigorous anti-venom
therapy, a black mamba bite is rapidly fatal almost 100% of the time.
Locals called the bite of a black mamba "The kiss of death". Donald
knew this, and asked for a piece of paper and a pencil, but as they had
none, he dictated his will to Hutch. Donald instructed that his
insurance money, and his share in the Glencairn Mine, were to go to his
mother. His share in the Valhalla syndicate, his rifle, and his pointer
dog Dandy, were to go to his brother Ben (Baillie). The money in his
purse was payment to his native boys, and his executors were named as
Willie and Baillie Stokes. Donald said he had an idea that he would die
in the bush by some of the large beasts, but not a loathsome thing like
a snake. Death was slow, with paralysis enveloping his body.
Drifting in and out of consciousness, Donald said "Hutch, if I am going
to die, I am going to die game." His last words were "Hutch, this is
very rough on you old man", and "Goodbye Hutch, I am going", as
he died in Hutch's arms. Hutch added a postscript to his letter
"It was 3 1/2 hours before help arrived and I did hope that Donald would live until Ben came; but it was not to be."
and Baillie Stokes were distantly related to Baillie and Donald Munro,
but a decade older, and no doubt were behind the Munro
brother's decision to emigrate to South Africa. Willie was William
McDonald Stokes, born 1868, and Baillie was born Thomas Baillie Munro
Stokes in 1872, both at Duthil, Inverness-shire. They were grandsons of
Mary Fraser, sister of Margaret Fraser who had married the Munro
uncle, another Baillie Chisholm Munro, at Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire
in 1863. Baillie
Stokes arrived at Cape Town in 1894, and was a Sergeant in the Imperial
Light Horse during the Boer War, being injured on 9 September 1900 at
Silverkop farm, in the Carolina district, Mpumalanga. At age 42 he
enlisted for WW1 at Chelsea Town Hall, London on 26 February 1915, and
discharged at Longford, Ireland the following year. The Stokes brothers
were mentioned in notations on the reverse of photographs that Donald
MacLeod Munro sent to his widowed mother Annie, the photographs leaving
absolutely no doubt as to the harshness of the Battlefields environment:
Baillie made his home about 43 miles north east of Battlefields, at Hartley, Rhodesia, now known as Chegutu, Zimbabwe. By 4 August 1914, when the United Kingdom declared war on
Germany, Baillie had spent eight years in Rhodesia, and was now a Rhodesian national.
immediately after the outbreak of war, parties of white Southern
Rhodesians paid their own way to England to join the British Army. Most
Southern Rhodesians who served in the war enlisted in this way and
fought on the Western Front, taking part in many of the major battles
with an assortment of British, South African and other colonial units,
most commonly the King's Royal Rifle Corps, which recruited hundreds of
men from the colony, and created homogenous Rhodesian platoons.
Troopers from Southern Rhodesia became renowned on the Western Front
for their marksmanship, a result of their frontier lifestyle."
2nd Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps war diaries for the western front
regularly mention "the Rhodesians", as if they were a splinter group
within the unit.
Baillie packed his bags and boarded the 'Norman" from Durban to London, arriving on 4 November 1914,
three months after Britain had declared war on Germany. He travelled as 30
year old engineer Baillie C. Munro, his country of last permanent
residence being Rhodesia, and country of intended future residence,
Rhodesian civilians were escorted on the 'Norman' to London by an army
officer who found sport in asserting his authority at the expense
of a hapless young Rhodesian. Baillie, who had done some boxing and was
handy with his fists, intervened, and knocked the offending officer
into the harbour water. Recruitments completed, Baillie waited in turn
to be interviewed by the Commanding Officer, and must have had mixed
feelings to discover he was standing in front of not only his recent
opponent, but also his future Colonel. The Colonel was friendly, shook his hand and said "Munro is your name I understand".
He enlisted with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps at London on
18th November 1914 with the rank of Private, and after just one month
of training, boarded a troopship to France on 21 December 1914.
was reported to have been injured in March 1915, and if that is correct,
the injuries may have been incurred at either Aubers, or Loos on the
western front where the Kings Royal Rifle Corps were in action at the time.
I don't know when Baillie
had been promoted from Private to Lance-Corporal, but he received his
commission from Lance-Corporal to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant on 28
November 1915 according to his campaign card:
The Supplement to
the London Gazette reported his promotion to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant on 22 December 1915, quoting
information from the War Office:
Kings Royal Rifles were in the North Maroc sector, about three quarter
of a mile west, south west of Loos, on 30 June 1916, and had enjoyed
four relatively quiet days while preparations were under way for an
attack scheduled against German fortifications at a location known as
the Triangle. Parties selected for the attack moved into B Company's
billets at 7.30 p.m., and by 8.30 p.m. all were ready, with zero time
having been fixed at 9.10 p.m. At 9 p.m. the bridges were put up. The
enemy either saw these, or saw the troops assembling in the trenches,
as at 9.03 p.m. they opened fire with trench mortars and artillery,
causing heavy casualties, the trenches being then overcrowded. The 2nd
Kings Royal Rifles opened their artillery attack as arranged at 9.10
p.m. At 9.15 p.m. three mines were sprung, and at 9.16 p.m. the
storming column went over the parapet. The two parties on the right
failed to penetrate the heavy wire in front of the hostile trenches,
and consequently what remained of them turned south, to the northern
end of the Double Crassier, a land formation half a mile south west of
Loos, in an attempt to help the Royal Sussex Regiment who had a company
engaged, but once again were unsuccessful as a consequence of wire and
machine gun fire.
North Maroc, Double Crassier, and Loos can be seen in the lower section of this map.
The outer column reached, and entered the enemy's
trench but found it much exposed to hostile bombing attacks, and was
unable to join up with the left column. Under the circumstances the
Major in command ordered a withdrawal of the outer column, carried out
in "poor orders" according to the war diaries, as it left the left
column, who had reached their appointed trench, isolated. The left
column, under the command of Lieutenant Munro, remained in action until
3 a.m. on 1 July, when they also were forced to retreat. Losses were
heavy, with 3 officers killed, another 2 later dying of wounds, 6
wounded, 28 ordinary ranks killed, another 8 later dying of wounds, 24
missing, and 167 wounded. The Battalion, having accounted for an
estimated 100 of the enemy during the action, was then relieved,
returning to billets in North Maroc, en route to rest billets at Petits
Sains that same evening, before relocating to the Somme, where a major
offensive had commenced that same day.
The catalogue reference
number for the following two pages covering the attack on the Triangle,
is WO 95/1272/6.Permission must be obtained from The National Archives Image Library
for the reproduction of copies of any of their records, whether they
are protected by Crown copyright, are non-Crown copyright, or are out
of copyright, for publication, on the internet, for broadcasting, for
exhibition or for any commercial purpose.
Arthur Conan Doyle, whose son Kingsley Doyle fought, and was wounded at
the Somme in 1916, saw this attack as a means of distracting the
from the main offensive at the Somme, having this to say:
can be no greater trial for troops, and no greater sacrifice can be
demanded of a soldier, than to risk and probably lose his life in an
attempt which can obviously have no permanent result, and is merely
intended to ease pressure elsewhere. The gallant stormers reached and
in several places carried the enemy's line, but no lasting occupation
could be effected, and they had eventually to return to their own fine.
The Riflemen, who were the chief sufferers, lost 11 officers and 200
This was published in the Dundee Courier on 8
The publication followed up with this article on 2 August 1916:
The Supplement to the London Gazette on 19 August
1916 has his citation for the Military Cross, and leaves no doubt that Baillie would indeed have been the talk of the regiment:
The Military Cross inscription reads "Baillie Chisholm Munro June 30 1916".
2nd Lieut. Baillie Chisholm Munro
months after incurring injuries at the Triangle, Baillie was not only
back in action, but earned a mention in depatches at the Somme,
for his heroics at Wood Lane:
September 1916 - Orders arrived that the attack would take place at
4.45 p.m. During the morning 'A' Coy. was relieved by 'D' Coy. and 'B'
Coy. moved up into close support in SEAFORTH TRENCH some 50 yards away
from out front line. 'A' Coy. went into RIFLES TRENCH in the 3rd line,
while 'C' Coy. remained in its original position. Lt. [temp. Capt.] L.
A. BLACKETT was unfortunately hit by fragments from a bomb, which had
been exploded by a shell, while waiting in the front line to lead his
company in the attack. The command of 'C' Coy was taken over by 2nd Lt.
LEE. At 4.45 p.m. the guns opened with an intense barrage and at the
same moment our men went over the parapet. The assault delivered with
much dash, was entirely successful on the left. Here 'C' Coy. carried
their objective without any great effort or much loss. On the right 'D'
Coy was held up by MG fire and the two platoons of 'B' Coy. who were to
support them on the right were also stopped - Lt. MUNRO, commanding 'B'
Coy. organized a fresh attack by orders of the Commanding Officer -
Stokes Mortars and Lewis gun fire subdued the enemy's resistance and on
the threat of assault he surrendered. The remains of 'D' Coy. and half
'B' Coy. then carried their objective and joined touch with the 5th
Kings Liverpool Regiment on their right, and with 'C' Coy. on their
left. 'C' Company, at the same time was in touch with the 2nd Royal
Sussex so that the whole line then stood firmly in WOOD LANE."
slightly different account from "The Annals of The King's Royal Rifle
Corps, Vol. V, The Great War", where Major General Sir Steuart Hare
describes the 9 September 1916 attack on Wood Lane at the Somme:
4:45 p.m. our artillery opened an intense barrage on Wood Lane, and at
the same time our men went over the parapet. The assault, which was
delivered with much dash, was quite successful on the left. Here C
Company carried their objective without any great effort or much loss.
On the right D Company was held up by machine-gun fire, and the two
platoons of B Company who were to support the attack on this flank were
also stopped. Sergeant-Major Hyde was killed while endeavoring to lead
forward the men of B Company. A fresh attack was organized on this
flank. Stokes mortars and Lewis-gun fire subdued the enemy's
resistance, and on the threat of assault the remainder of the Germans
surrendered. Their machine guns and the teams that had fought them had
been put out of action by our Stokes mortars, and by 2nd Lieutenant
Munro's fire from a Lewis gun."
Battalion lost two 2nd Lieutenants in that action, with six officers
including Baillie being wounded, and from the other ranks there were 24
killed, 82 wounded, and 36 missing.
Baillie Chisholm Munro is an officer here, and at Inverness, so the photograph would have been taken during the closing months of 1916, when he was recovering from injuries received at the battle of Wood Lane.
Baillie, preferring to be called Ben, sent a telegram to his bride-to-be,
Isabella Mary Fraser, in autumn 1916 saying "Coming home
Ben", and so he did. Baillie
proposed to Isabella in a Hansom cab in London, the couple spending a
necessarily brief "honeymoon" at the Russell Hotel there. On
26 December 1916, he married Isabella at
her residence "Moorlands", 11 Drummond Road, Inverness. Baillie's
brother John, a Lieutenant with the 44th
Battalion Canadian Infantry, New Brunswick Regiment, was a witness, and
like Baillie was recouperating, having received injuries to both legs
and a finger at Courcelette, France on 5 November, 1916. Their mother,
Annie Gordon Munro nee MacLeod, lived at "Naverton", 5 Drummond Road,
so was a neighbour to Baillie's wife.
seven months of the wedding both John and Baillie were killed at
different conflicts along the Hindenberg Line, so were never to see
each other again. Nor was Baillie to again see his bride Isabella,
or their daughter, Minna Baillie Chisholm Munro, who was born
at Inverness on 22 September 1917.
I haven't sighted this particular record, but on
4 January 1917, just nine days after marrying, Baillie had the
distinction of being again mentioned in despatches, so had not wasted
any time in returning to battle. His record card has "Operations LGS
4.1.17, Vol 29890, Page 236, MID", and may refer to fighting that took
place during the German retreat from the Somme to the Hindenberg Line.
Baillie Chisholm Munro's good fortune on the battlefields finally
deserted him at Nieuport Bains in the Flanders region of Belgium on 10
July, 1917. By October 1914 the Belgian Army, no longer able to
defend Flanders from the Germans, had retreated to the Yser
and with the fortified town of Nieuport in imminent danger of falling,
made the decision to halt the German advances by opening the sluices
and locks to flood the Polder Plain; hence the French addition of
"Bains", or baths, to the Nieuport name.
The Yser River flows in a
south easterly direction from the North Sea to Nieuport, with the
Germans having retained the area on the north eastern bank since 1914,
and by July 1917 had further strengthened an already heavily fortified
position with troops retreating from the Somme. The Germans referred to
the Battle of Nieuport Bains as Operation Strandfest, which translates
to "beach party", but it was anything but a party for the 2nd Kings
Royal Rifle Corps, or for the 1st Northamptonshire Regiments.
article from The Long, Long Trail web site gives an excellent account
of the battle, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of it's
author, Robert Dunlop:
"On the 20 June,
the British XV Corps took over the French sector on the Belgian coast.
The Marines Korps Flandern patrols detected the changeover on the 21st.
Korps commander von Schroeder correctly interpreted this report as the
prelude to a British attack along the coast. He began planning
Operation Strandfest, a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the Yser
bridgehead. Meanwhile, the British set about improving the defences in
the bridgehead. Tunnellers were used, including the 257th and the 2nd
Australian Tunnelling Companies, but their work was not complete when
Operation Strandfest began. Nor was all the British artillery in place;
only 176 of the planned 583 guns and howitzers were available to defend
On the 6 July 1917, the
MarinesKorps Flandern began a desultory artillery bombardment, which
continued for the next three days. Fog and low cloud prevented
detection of the German build-up. Then, at 5.30am on the the 10 July
the massed German artillery, including three 24cm naval guns in shore
batteries and 58 artillery batteries (planned naval gunfire support
from destroyers and torpedo-boats was cancelled), opened up on the
British positions in the bridgehead. Mustard gas (Yellow Cross) was
used for the first time in the barrage. All but one of the bridges over
the Yser River were demolished, isolating the 1/Northamptonshire and
2/KRRC of 2nd Brigade, 1st Division on the extreme left flank.
Telephone communication was also cut. The German bombardment continued
throughout the day. The British artillery attempted a counter-barrage
but several guns were knocked out and the German infantry were well
protected. At 8pm, the MarinesKorps launched the infantry assault, by
which time the two British battalions had suffered 70-80% casualties.
The German stormtroopers attacked down the coast, outflanking the
British. Their attack was then followed by waves of German Marines,
supported by flamethrower teams to mop up dugouts. After a gallant
defence, the British battalions were overwhelmed. Only 4 officers and
64 other ranks managed to reach the west bank of the Yser.
German attack on the 32nd Division, further to the east, was less
successful. Only the 97th Brigade was attacked and although there was
some penetration into the line, a counterattack that night by the
11/Border Regiment, supported by two companies of the 17/Highland Light
Infantry, restored all but 500 yards of the front line. A general
counterattack was ordered for the 11 July by General RAWLINSON. Wisely,
he later rescinded his decision at the request of XV Corps Commander,
Lt. General John Du CANE.
The total British
casualties amounted to approximately 3,126 of all ranks, killed,
wounded and missing. Of these, fifty officers and 1,253 other ranks
belonged to the two battalions of 1st Division. Lieutenant Colonel
Richard ABADIE DSO, Officer Commanding 2/KRRC, has no known grave and
is commemorated on the Nieuport Memorial to the Missing."
General du Cane's request that no counter attack be undertaken, was
heavily influenced by disastrous earlier decisions on his
part that had seen the almost complete annihilation of his 2nd
Kings Royal Rifle Corps. As a consequence, the 1st Northamptonshire
Regiment on their right flank was left further exposed, and suffered
Humphrey Butler, dictated a brief matter-of-fact report on the
battle to his father, Lt. Col. Lewis Butler, probably on the 11th July, prior to setting out
on a patrol in search of Lt. Col. Abadie. Lt. Munro
is mentioned on the second page:
Captain Humphrey Butler's private report.
Again, permission must be obtained from The National Archives Image Library
for the reproduction of copies of any of their records, whether they
are protected by Crown copyright, are non-Crown copyright, or are out
of copyright, for publication, on the internet, for broadcasting, for
exhibition or for any commercial purpose. The catalogue reference number for the following six pages is WO 95/3898.
Captain Butler, being for
the first time under attack by flamethrowers, described them as "a kind
of liquid fire".
Nieuport Bains 1917
sand dunes can be seen clearly here on the far bank of the Yser. I
would estimate that the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment was positioned
about where the dunes taper off to the right of photo, with B. Company
of the King's Royal Rifles being to their immediate left, D.
Company being somewhere near the dark area in the middle of the dunes,
and A. Company where the sands meet the beach. That would place C.
Company, which was in was in support behind D and B Companies,
somewhere near where an object or barge can be seen against the river bank.
Humphrey Butler waited two months until 10
September 1917 to present a more detailed report, and it could be
that he disagreed with Corps Commander du Cane's version of events
and felt the need to right a wrong. The report would have been seen by du Cane before it reached the desk of General Officer Commanding of IV Army,
Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Rawlinson, and it was of du Cane that Butler was most critical.
Allied and German positions at Nieuport on the 10th and 11th July 1917.
For visual representation of the description given below, I
have marked the positions of the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps and the
1st Northamptonshire regiments on the map to the north and east of the
with B Company being between the 1st Northamptonshire and D Company, A
Company on the coastline, and C Company in support closer to the river.
The Loyal North Lancashire and Royal Sussex Battalions are to
south and west of the Yser. The original image is from "The
Battlefields of the First World War: The Unseen Panoramas of the
Western Front" by Peter Barton.
many of Captain Humphrey Butler's criticisms remain in the report, his observations
have been expanded upon or heavily censored in many instances.
Anecdotal comments appear under ruled-off sections on the pages, some
typed, and some in Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Rawlinson's
handwriting, with Rawlinson adding comments throughout the report. When reviewing the document, Lieutenant-General Rawlinson
has cross-referenced to the report with pencilled “x” marks. I've
highlighted the typed comments in red, and Lieutenant-General Rawlinson's pencilled comments in blue. Words underlined are as per the report. Sections of the report relating to Lieut. Baillie Chisholm Munro and B Company are in bold.
ACTION AT NIEUPORT BAINS - July 10th 1917.
Sector bordering on the sea was taken over by the British Army from the
French in the month of June. On the 4th July the northern portion of
that Sector, from Nieuport to the sea, was occupied by the 1st Division
on a front of about 1400 yds. The 2nd Brigade being in advance, this
space was divided in about equal proportions by the 2nd Battalion of
The King's Royal Rifle Corps on the left, and the 1st Battalion the
Northamptonshire Regiment on the right. These Battalions forming the
first line were thrown out beyond the Yser and posted on a line of
sandhills running north and south about 600 yds. east of the river. The
terrain consisted of sand dunes, in places soft underfoot, in others
The two remaining Battalions of the 2nd Brigade, viz., the
Loyal North Lancashire on the left, the Royal Sussex on the right, were
posted in support about Nieuport Bains, west of the Yser. It so
happened that Brigadier-General Hubback had been wounded a few days
previously and his place had just been taken by Br.-Genl. Kemp. In rear
of the 2nd Brigade was the remainder of the 1st Division.
The line on the immediate right and south of the 1st Division was occupied by the 32nd about Lombardzyde; the Geleide bank is a tributary of the Yser, running from east to west, and dividing the two Divisions which were connected only by a single bridge. causeway.
a distance of 600 yds. behind the front line as occupied the river
turns northward through a canalised channel to the sea. During this
latter part of its coarse it was spanned by three floating bridges, all
close to the mouth, and a fourth near the bend. The banks had stone
revetments; the breadth of the river varied according to the tide from
about 60 to 100 yds. 100 to 200 yards.
trenches taken over from the French were of a somewhat sketchy nature,
and indeed in the absence of concrete it was difficult for them to be
anything else. As a protection they were most imperfect.
obvious to the veriest tyro that the most unremitting vigilance, the
support of the most powerful artillery fire, the closest co-operation
between the naval and military forces were essential if the position
were to be tenable even for only a few hours.
The orders, given to the Battalion Commanders were to hold on to the last; a strong support being thus virtually promised.
French, and before them the Belgians, aware of the weakness of the
post, had been most careful to do nothing that could attract attention
or raise an alarm on the part of the enemy. Our Battalion Commanders
were given to understand that for similar reasons and in view of
impending operations they were to keep equally quiet. But in direct
contradiction of these general instructions, they were ordered to make
raids upon the enemy's entrenchments, and to these contradictory orders
the subsequent tragedy may probably be traced.
astonishing is the fact that no additional preparations were made for
communication between the troops on either side of the river. It was
obvious that the bridges would be broken down if the enemy made any
determined bombardment. Yet no rafts nor boats, which might easily
escape the enemy's shell fire, were moored under the banks. (x) I doubt if this would have been much use -
Divisional Artillery was in position west of the river and a large
proportion at all events of the heavy artillery was also in position
and ready for action. All the guns which the French had in position were relieved by batteries of our own
The 2nd Battalion of The King's Royal Rifle Corps, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Richard Abadie, which had already been four times decimated since the beginning of the war had taken up its position as follows:-
the left of the line, overlooking the North Sea, "A" Company was
posted, near a projection known as Pimple Point. This Company was
commanded by Captain H. F. E. Smith, whose subalterns present were 2nd
Lieuts. E. W. Barnes, A. G. Boucher and N. F. E. Anson. "D" Company
(Capt. W. L. Clinton, Lieut. H. A. Pinnock, 2nd Lieuts. H. Chevis, W.
Sheepshanks and A. Simpson) took the centre, and "B" Company (Lieut. Munro, 2nd Lieuts. A. C. Heberden and D. H. Taylor) was on the right.
"C" Company (Lieut. H. J. F. Mills, 2nd Lieuts. H. G. Lindsay and R.
Madeley) was in support, its Headquarters being in a central position
forming the apex of a triangle of which D and B Companies were the base.
think there was one raft under the west bank, but are doubtful whether
it was in effective condition. Anyhow, no attempt was made to utilise
Bn. H. Q. as well as the Dressing
Station were established in a central position some 350-yds in rear of
the front line, in the trench running north and south known as the Back
About 80-yds to the north was an underground tunnel, running
east and west, something over 100-yards in length, but unfinished; and
it was decided in case of need to transfer the Bn. H. Q. thither.
The assistance of enfilade fire upon the enemy's guns and entrenchments was hoped for from the gun boats and monitors off the coast. This was not a feasable proposition & no order had been issued to lead to this supposition here indicated.
had the Riflemen taken up their position when the German artillery
began to show considerable activity. The fire was distributed along our
whole line up to the night of the 9th-10th. No less than 70 casualties
were sustained, a fact which in itself should have warned the higher
authorities in rear of the impending peril.(x)
Of these casualties 25 were inflicted upon "A" Company in one day,
which was thereupon relieved by "C" Company and took the place of the
latter. In support in accordance with the orders received a raid was
made on the enemy's entrenchments during the night of the 9th-10th.
(x) The Northamptonshire Regiment was no doubt exposed to equal shell fire, and probably sustained as many casualties.
The party employed consisted of an officer and 20 men, all Rhodesians, from "B" Company.
The trenches raided seemed to have been constructed on a spur of the
sandhill known a La Grande Dune. The operation in itself was
successful; but while returning a shell burst in their midst and
wounded nine men; and as the only prisoner captured died, the result
cannot be considered satisfactory.
The two Battalions were to
have been relieved after dark on the 10th; but at 6 a.m. the enemy's
artillery became lively along the whole sector, and by 8.50 a.m. the
fire had increased to an intense bombardment, which continued till 1
p.m. The metal employed by the enemy was very heavy, comprising 5.9,
8-in. and even a few 11-in. shells. It was not confined to our front
line but searched out the supporting Battalions and the Bde. H. Q.
beyond the canal.(x)
The Headquarter dug-out contained the Colonel; the officer acting as 2nd in Command;(x2)
Capt. Humphrey Butler, the Adjutant; the Battalion Intelligence
Officer, Lieut. W. H. Gott; the Signalling Officer, 2nd Lieut. A. L.
Gracie; 2nd Lieut. Henry R. A., Liaison Officer; Capt. Ward, R. A. M.
C., and the Battalion Signallers and Orderlies.
is said that the base of some 11-in. shells which exploded beyond the
river were hurled back into the enemy's own lines, a distance of
was Capt. H. F. E. Smith, whose Company, as already stated, was in
support close at hand. Capt. Clinton, his senior, having only recently
joined the battalion, commanded a company by his own request.
it appeared certain death, Lieut. Gott volunteered about noon to visit
"D" Company, and returned with a cheery message from Capt. Clinton, and
a report that up to the present all the Officers were unhurt. Colonel
Abadie considered Gott's act to be so gallant that he expressed his
intention of recommending him for the V.C.(x)
afterwards, 2nd Lieut. Taylor reached Bn. H. Q. from "B" Company. He
had been struck in the head by the splinter of a shell. The wound was
pronounced "not dangerous"; but Taylor, naturally enough, was dazed,
and only after an interval was able to mutter that his Company H. Q.
had been blown in and that Lieut. Munro had, presumably, been buried.
The 3rd Officer - 2nd Lieut. Heberden - had been killed earlier in the
About 2 p.m. Lieut.
Gott gallantly started out again to get further news of "B" Company;
but, having been hit in the left arm and leg, was brought back to the
Dressing Station, which had been established close to Bn. H. Q.
2.30 and 3 p.m. a message was received from Lieut. Mills, in command of
"C" Company, to the effect that the Officers were all right and their
dug-out was still standing. This was the last message received from "C"
Company, and it is known that its H. Q. dug-out was shortly afterwards
He also intended to recommend Lt. McDowell for the D. S. O. on account
of repeated acts of gallantry performed during the raid of the
Then an Orderly, who had been
despatched to "D" Company, returned with the startling news that he had
reached its H. Q. dugout and found all the Officers sitting therein,
but dead. He knew Lieut. Chevis, at all events, by sight; and he also
said that a Rifleman was standing outside the dug-out, dead. Although
it is possible that the party had been gassed, full credit was not
given to the story, for the Orderly was evidently suffering from
shell-shock, and it was - rightly as it turned out - and thought possible that the Officers whom he believed to be dead were in reality merely overcome by the sleep of exhaustion.
9.50 a.m. the Battalion Fuller 'phone wires had been cut, with the
consequence that no direct communication existed either with the
Companies in the front line or with the guns beyond the Yser. A buried telephone wire from the Corps Commander (x) extended, at all events, to the west bank of the Yser. Of this no practical use was made, (x)
nor did any message come from the rear during the whole day. All
attempts by our Signallers to call up the Officer at the near end of
it, proved futile. Colonel Abadie's sole means of sending one was by
pigeons, of which there were eight. All seem to have reached their destination.
ground was torn by the enemy's shells: the sand rose in clouds and not
only prevented all view around, but rendered our rifles and machine
guns useless. In rear our Divisional Artillery was hard at work, but it
was evident that the heavy guns were making no successful effort to keep down the German fire.
The officer at the Yser end of the wire is said to have sent messages
to the rear: but he did not succeed in the more important duty of
getting in touch with the Battalion Signallers.
this time the German aeroplanes were swarming over our lines and from
an altitude sometimes of only 60-ft. were pouring machine gun fire upon
our trenches. The Colonel encouraged all about him by repeatedly saying
that our own aeroplanes could not fail to appear within half-an-hour at
the latest, but not a single one did so all day.
Abadie's attention. Orders were sent from time to time to the Companies
and he inspired all with the greatest confidence. "He did everything in
his power", writes the Adjutant, "and was splendid the whole time". All
felt sure that assistance must be close at hand. But hour after hour
passed. No aid; no word even of encouragement arrived from the Division
or Army Corps. Yet no suspicion arose that the two battalions had been
abandoned to their fate. Such action would have seemed incredible.
3 p.m. it was found necessary to abandon the dug-out used as Battalion
H. Q. Two direct hits had been made thereon and it was not likely to
stand much more. With the Colonel and Adjutant went Capt. H. F. E.
Smith, acting as 2nd in Command, 2nd Lieut. Gracie, and 2nd Lieut.
Henry, R. A., accompanied by the battalion Signallers and Orderlies. It
was unfortunately impossible to carry away the two wounded Officers,
Gott and Taylor, who were perforce left in the Dressing Station under
charge of Capt. H. K. Ward, R. A. M. C. who had also received a slight wound.
H. Q. party betook itself to the underground tunnel, already mentioned.
The tunnel was about 6-ft. high, but only 3-ft. wide. In length it was
something over 100-yds. sinuous in form and running, generally, from
west to east. It was found to be occupied by about 40 men of an
Australian Tunnelling Company, others of whom were engaged in making
rapid mining galleries in front, with the object of burrowing under the
enemy's lines. At intervals of about 30-yds. air holes had been let in
to the roof (which was covered with tin foil), affording a modicum of
light and air at these spots; but otherwise the tunnel was quite dark.
Australians had no Officer, and apparently not more than two N. C. O's.
Colonel Abadie therefore divided them into four squads, each of ten
men, and placed the whole under command of 2nd Lieut. Gracie. The
Australians were for the most part armed with rifles, but had not more
than 20 or 30 rounds of ammunition per man.
At 6 p.m. came another
lull in the bombardment, and advantage was taken of it to bring up
ammunition and rations from the old H. Q. dug-out, the entrenchments
adjoining which had, in the meanwhile, been battered almost out of
recognition. The Dressing Station was still standing, but Capt. Ward
had been wounded. The H. Q. party returned to the tunnel, and
ammunition and rations were distributed among the Australians.
The lull was of short duration. At 6.15 p.m. the bombardment became more intense than ever. At 7.15 the German Infantry - a picked
Division of Marines - attacked. Under cover of his guns the enemy
pushed forward a force along the seashore, the tide being exceptionally
low. His curtain fire had made it impossible to I never heard this
guard the shore, and the attack was made simultaneously on our front
and rear. Indeed, the first news of it was brought by the appearance of
the enemy in our communication trench running parallel to the tunnel,
whence he threw bombs down the air-shafts and also appeared at the
western entrance just at the moment when the Colonel was doing his
utmost to get the Australians out of it. They were met by the Germans
with bombs. Some panic ensued and about half the Australians
surrendered. When the surrenders ceased the Germans threw in a species
of liquid fire. The Colonel called to the Riflemen to sit down and they
did so with perfect discipline. The heat was intense, but the liquid
fire did no positive harm. The Colonel then made for the eastern
entrance and went out into the open air, calling upon the party to
follow him, apparently with the intention of making a last charge. But
within the narrow space of the tunnel, crowded with men and ammunition
boxes, rapid movement was impossible; and even as it was, acute danger
existed of men on the ground being trampled underfoot by the others.
Before the Officers could join their C. O. - indeed, within a few
seconds of his quitting the tunnel – the entrances were blown in and
the last that was seen of (x)
Colonel Abadie was outside the eastern entrance, revolver in hand. What
happened subsequently to the Colonel is matter for conjecture. He may
have run into the midst of the Germans. On the other haul, there is
some idea that he climbed on to the roof of the tunnel and either
attempted, or actually reached, two Platoons of "A" Company, which were
in support near the dug-out which had been the original Bn. H. Q. These
two Platoons unquestionably made a gallant resistance, as later on they
were found lying dead, with a number of dead Germans around them. It is
said however by an Artillery Officer on the further side of the canal
that through his telescope he distinguished Abadie standing alone upon
a sandhill. Then a shell burst close at hand and the Colonel was seen
The four Officers remaining in the tunnel, viz., Smith,
Butler, Gracie and Henry, set to work to clear the entrances, and
decided to join the counter-attack which they still expected would
shortly be made by the Battalions in support. But by the time that the
entrances had been cleared it was nearly dark. Lieut. Henry, R. A.,
with great gallantry, went outside to reconnoitre, and reported on his
return that the party in the tunnel was surrounded by the enemy. Capt.
Butler's servant - who afterwards received the Military Medal for his
conduct - went as far as the old H. Q. dug-out, and reported that no
wounded men, either of our own or of the Germans, were to be seen.
Capt. Smith and Butler, with an Australian Corporal, also went outside,
and under cover of a shell hole within 10-yds of the German sentries,
discussed the situation. They came to the conclusion that there was a
bare chance of breaking through the Germans, who were for the most
part busily engaged in digging themselves in, and of getting back to
the Yser; and that their best chance means of doing so was to go in parties of about four at intervals of perhaps a minute.
In a letter to his father written from Karlsruhe, Capt. Clinton
mentions viewing 'unreliable' reports by various Rilemen that one said
he saw the Colonel "lying dead near the river." This seems
It was now about 10 p.m.
The survivors in the tunnel consisted of the four Officers, fifteen
Riflemen and about twenty Australians. The conduct of one of the last,
named (G) McGrady, is
spoken of in the highest admiration; but he was, alas, killed during
the course of the night. The necessary instructions were given to the
men in whispers and preparations were made for the start. The code and
secret documents in the Battalion despatch Case were destroyed by Capt.
Smith and the Adjutant. At length everything was ready; but at the
moment that the leading party - consisting of the four Officers,
revolver in hand - were about to quit the western entrance, word was
passed down from the other end that an Officer was required at once;
and Capt. Smith, answering the call, was told that the Germans were
close at hand and about to enter from that side. Smart, the Adjutant's
Orderly, and another Rifleman were consequently detailed to act as rear
guard, with orders to delay the enemy and gain time for the retirement
of the remainder of our party.
This they effected with great skill
and coolness, placing ammunition and biscuit boxes on the ground at
intervals of a few yards. The Germans, entering the tunnel, tripped up
over the boxes and halted to strike a light. A minute was thus gained,
and the procedure was repeated until the whole of our party had
evacuated the tunnel.
German sentries had been posted within a
few yards of the western entrance, and the men had been warned to come
out as quietly as possible. Nevertheless, partly on account of their
steel hats, their rifles and the intense joy relief
at the prospect of quitting the death-trap, a certain amount of clatter
was made, in spite of which, the German sentries were eluded; and the
party, marching at the prescribed arranged intervals,? was successfully launched on the hazardous attempt.
enemy, only 20-yds away, was observed to be digging himself in, but was
safely passed; and despite continuous shell fire, the Officers had
nearly reached the bank of the river when a new difficulty presented
itself. A wooden barricade, some 12 or 14-ft. high, forming a camouflage
or screen, had been set on fire by the shells, and barred the way to
the bank of the Yser, parallel to which it ran for a considerable
distance. The Officers halted. The moment was critical, for by means of
Very lights the enemy was searching the entire ground. Smith and his
companions lay down flat and, though one such light dropped close by
them, escaped notice.
The question was not only how to climb the camouflage,
but to choose the least unfavourable spot for approaching and crossing
the canalised river. To the south the shells of our own Divisional
Artillery were raking the ground. A communication trench to the
northward leading to one of the broken bridges was tempting but its
occupation by the Germans seemed a certainty. The best course, on the
whole, seemed to be to move straight ahead; the rather that the camouflage was lower at this particular point, affording something of a gap. The moon now began to rise behind them.
was safely crossed and the nearest section of their party in rear was
seen following in extended order. Then the revetting wall of the river
was reached. Smith and Henry were expert swimmers; the other two were
less good. Gracie took off his boots and puttees and consequently cut
his feet against the mussel shells embodied in the wall. Butler
retained his boots, revolver and 50 rounds of ammunition. All kept on
their steel hats.
Dropping into the water with as little noise
as possible, the four struck out and safely reached a small remaining
portion of the floating bridge in mid stream. Here they stayed for a
few minutes, for none of their men seemed to be following them, and a
party was observed to the northward crossing a bridge which appeared to
be intact. Whether the party was German or British was for the moment
uncertain;, but Butler, observing that all were going westward and none
returning, decided that they must be our own men; and this indeed
proved to be the case. The men had lost sight of their Officers and
diverged to the right into the communication trench mentioned above,
which, after all, was unoccupied by the enemy. The bridge on which they
were crossing in reality extended over only about two-thirds of the
river. They swam the remaining part and although some were shot or
drowned, the greater number reached the further shore of the river in
The Officers reached the further shore without hurt, but
their difficulties were even now not quite at an end. They found
themselves without gas helmets under the fire of gas shells; but the
pressure was happily not very great, and in due course they entered a
communication trench which brought them to the Head-quarters of the
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in support.
Previous to leaving
the tunnel, the Adjutant, as mentioned above, had destroyed the
confidential documents belonging to the Battalion. The Despatch Case
containing them was judged to be too great an encumbrance and was left
behind. But the Adjutant's Orderly, unaware of the decision and seeing
the Despatch Box on the ground, carried it with him. When the end of
the broken bridge over the Yser was reached he attempted to throw the
case to the western bank. It fell into the river; but the tide washed
it up, and the case was consequently recovered, still containing a
copy, beautifully clear, beautifully written, of the last order given
by Colonel Abadie to the Companies of the front line.
the following day at 6 p.m. a Sergeant and fourteen Riflemen of "B"
Company, having got clear of the dug-out in which they had been buried,
walked back in broad daylight and safely crossed the Yser without
seeing a German!
A few men, wounded early on the 10th but
able to walk, had been ordered to return to their lines, and in all,
three Officers and about fifty-two N. C. O's and Riflemen got back over
So ends the story of Nieuport Bains, so far as is at
present known. Out of 20 officers either belonging to or attached to
the battalion, two were killed and fifteen missing.(x) Of the latter, news - at the date of writing, Sept. 10th 1917 - has been received from the following:-
Captains Clinton and Ward; Lieutenants Pinnock and Mills; 2nd Lieutenants Lindsay, Madeley, Taylor, Simpson, Gott and Chevis.
Much remains to be explained. The following notes may be made:-
The orders given by the higher Command were contradictory. Commanding
Officers were ordered to remain quiet in their trenches and to attract
no attention, as had been done successfully by the Belgians and the
French. Notwithstanding this, orders were given for raids, which of
course stirred up the hornets' nest.
1. The position was taken up at a time when the Corps Artillery most wanted direction, could not be used in support.
(x) Later information makes the number 7 killed, 10 prisoners of whom 5 were wounded.
A buried telephone wire from the Corps Commander extended, at all
events, down to the west bank of the Yser. Of this no use was made
during the whole day.
It was constantly used as far as the left bank -
3. (Blank paragraph; Butler's note having been excluded)
Better not refer to the Australian tunnellers
Why was no serious attempt made by our heavy guns to keep down the
enemy's bombardment? Even allowing that all were not as yet in position
and that observations were not complete, was it impossible for them to
fire from the spot where they were temporarily parked;
and did the lack of precise observation prevent them firing on any
portion of No Man's Land or the enemy's trenches?
The hostile guns were too numerous and too well protected by concrete for the heavies to do much
The serious nature of the situation does not appear to have been
appreciated by the Corps Staff. The Commander himself may have been
absent on duty; but anyhow the paramount importance of support and communication were ignored.
both were impossible once the bridges were gone
6. Why did the Naval Squadron off the coast not co-operate?
because it was not either feasable or desirable
is too early at the present time to attempt to attribute blame to any
individuals. After the action the Divisional Commander addressed the
remnant of the two Battalions in terms of the highest praise. The Corps
Commander, on the other hand, had no word of recognition for the
magnificent gallantry of the two battalions, but was good enough to
inform the Rifle Officers that he attributed no blame to them on
account of the ground lost! This ungracious, and indeed insulting,
speech, addressed to Officers whose nerves were still overwrought by
what they had gone through, and smarting at the idea of the loss of
their comrades who had been abandoned to their fate, as would seem by
the culpable neglect of the speaker, stung them as if it had been the
lash of a whip. It needed all their sense of discipline and self
restraint to prevent giving burning expression to their feelings. The
men of Northampton and the Riflemen had died where they had been
posted, like the Spartans at Thermopylae. Heroism could do no more. And
their reward was insult. !! is this quite correct?
giving vent to the tone of the Corps Commander, we venture to speak not
only on behalf of our own Battalion, but also for the Northamptonshire
Regiment, which had sacrificed itself with equal gallantry and which
has no Officer left to take its part; for one Sergeant and eight men
only returned from the action.
As to the cause of the failure of
the Naval Squadron to co-operate, we cannot at present speak with
certainty, but it is rumoured that the Admiral responsible was
"surprised at not getting a request for assistance"! It may be wondered
whether the naval heroes of a century ago would have been so
subservient to etiquette as to wait to be asked before taking part in
so desperate a fight, when a gallant body of men was upholding the
honour of its country against overwhelming odds. Such insistence on the
formalities of etiquette would seem more appropriate to a dancing
master than to a Naval Officer. The weather was no bar to interference.
An eye-witness states that there was a slight breeze off the shore and
that the sea was calm enough to sail a fourteen foot boat.
The whole episode demands a most searching enquiry.
is difficult to avoid the inference that the Corps Commander, failing
to appreciate the importance of the position and its imminent peril,
neglected the measures essential for co-operation and support.
I think the tone of these latter paras is unnecessarily venomous.
Naval problem which I have carefully examined from all points of view
was not a feasable proposition - had the ships intervened we should
have lost several ships and done no good for the wind was off the shore
and no ------- possible in consequence - you forget that there are
between 20 & 30 German quick firing coast defence guns that command
any position from which the ships can fire -
Sir Henry Rawlinson, who for the most part had made fair and considered
comments on Captain Butler's report, took umbrage at his latter
paragraphs, calling them "unnecessarily venomous". Corps Commander du Cane was later knighted,
became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for the British Army of the
Rhine from 1924 until 1927, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of
Malta, and Aide-de-Camp General to King George V from 1926 to 1930. Captain Humphrey Butler who had spoken so strongly on behalf
of his men, was awarded a bar for his Military Cross. The original diary pages can be viewed here
raiding party by 20 Rhodesians against enemy lines on the night of
9th-10th July was led by 2nd Lieut. McDowell, not 2nd. Lieut Munro.
a point of interest, one of the German aeroplanes mentioned by Captain
Butler as swarming over their lines, would almost certainly have
been piloted by Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, had he not
suffered a head wound at Wervicq, also at Flanders, just four days
photographs, kindly provided by members of the Great War Forum web
site show firstly British casualties, and secondly German casualties,
following the battle on 10 July 1917:
As Captain Butler stated, much remains to be explained. The Captain's report to his
father commences with "From 8 a.m. to 8.15 a.m the Germans started an
intense bombardment of the whole Battalion's sector", and follows up on
the second page with "However, when the shelling continued for four
hours without a lull, we suspected that it meant an attack. The first
news that got down from the front lines was brought by 2nd. Lt. Taylor
(B. Company, which was the right front Company,) and he told us that B.
Company Headquarters had been blown in and, presumably the Officer
Commanding B. Company, Lt. Munro had been buried." So, if Captain
Butler was still only "suspecting" an attack at mid-day, four hours after 8
a.m., then the first news from 2nd. Lt. Taylor must not have been received at
Headquarters until after mid-day. Captain Butler's second, and more detailed report has that Lieut. Gott
volunteered about noon to visit D. Company, and shortly after returning
to Headquarters with his report, 2nd. Lieut. Taylor arrived with news of B. Company,
so allowing a conservative 15 minutes either way for Lieut. Gott to get
to D. Company and back (return trip 600 yards) across sand dunes that were under bombardment, 2nd.
Lieut. Taylor would not have reached Headquarters much before 12.30 p.m. This is at odds with the following 1st Northamptonshire version of events. Note the first message timed:
From the 1st Northamptonshire diaries. The full four page report can be viewed here The
Northamptons received a pigeon message from the O. C. of the 2nd
Royal Rifle Corps at 11.07 a.m. reporting that B. Company; being
Lieut. Munro's Company, had been blown in. The pigeon came
from Colonel Abadie who, for most of the day until after
7.15 p.m. that evening, was with Captain Butler at one, or both of the
H. Q.'s., and even had Colonel Abadie been away from Captain Butler at
H. Q. when the pigeon message went to the Northamptons, Captain Butler
still would have received news on B. Company earlier than 12.30 p.m., as
all eight of Colonel Abadie's
pigeons reached their destinations. If Captain Butler had prior
knowledge on the fate of B. Company before 2nd Lieut. Taylor's arrival
at 12.30 p.m., he hadn't mentioned that fact in his reports, and if he had
no prior knowledge, when the Northamptons had been advised as early
as 11.07 a.m., why had he not? Could it be that Colonel
Abadie had informed his Corps Commander du Cane, as would have been
expected of him, and du Cane had not informed Captain Butler, hence Butler's
accusation that du Cane may have been absent on duty?
I don't think that 2nd. Lieut. Taylor
was in the
bunker H.Q. with Lieut. Munro when it was blown in, else his injuries
would have been far worse than "not dangerous", and he would not
have used the words "presumably buried" when he arrived at H. Q. in a
dazed condition. It may well be that the shrapnel injury he received to the head came from the very same shell that
killed Lieut. Munro, explaining his rather vague descripion of the
incident. Whatever the circumstances, 2nd. Lieut. Taylor had been injured, and was in
no position to render assistance. He could not have been well,
having taken one and a half hours to cover approximately 700 yards; much the same distance that
a fit and healthy Lieut. Gott managed in less than 30 minutes. Taylor's injuries
were such that he, Lieut. Gott, whom Abadie had intended
recommending for a V.C., and Medical Officer, Captain Ward, were all
"perforce left in the Dressing Station", and while they would have
understood that stealth was necessay to evade the enemy, they must have
been disappointed that Captain Butler made the decision to leave them
behind. With Captain Butler, were Captain Smith, 2nd. Lieut.
Gracie, 2nd. Lieut. Henry, Butler's servant Smart, 15 Riflemen, and 20
Australians, and I would have thought that a party of 40 men would have
been more than capable of assisting three wounded men at least as
far as the Yser. In defence of Captain Butler's decision, from a pure
military point of view, the lives of forty men should not have been put
at risk to save three. I also thought that the four officers who
together, losing contact with the enlisted men, might have been
better deployed with each officer commanding a party of ten. Captain
Humphrey Butler's father, Lieut. Col. Lewis Butler, late the K. R.
R. C., who covered the battle for The King's Royal Rifle Corps
Chronicle, must have been concerned that others might query this point.
Mostly his son's report was copied ad verbatim into the Chronicle, but
where Captain Butler had written "At
length everything was ready; but at the
moment that the leading party - consisting of the four Officers,
revolver in hand - were about to quit the western entrance", his father
had added to the Chronicle version "(for the men insisted on the
officers going first)". Lieut. Col. Lewis Butler's summation shows the
military in the best possible light, with all hints of controversy and
dissent having now been removed from the proud history of the King's
Royal Rifle Corps.
Relevent pages from the 1917 King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle courtesy of The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum can be viewed at the link below, and include Lieut.-Col. Richard Abadie's last orders:
The sand dunes at Nieuport Bains in 1917
From The Queenslander 21 July 1917:
Baillie's widow Isabella applied posthumously for his 1914-15 Star, and 1914 Star and Clasp:
The Nieuport memorial