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The Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) casualties come to Quex Park 1918

Nurses & patients at Quex

In August and September 1918 over 1,000 military patients were brought to the Isle of Thanet auxiliary hospitals, most them were stretcher cases.  Major Powell-Cotton and his team of drivers and stretcher bearers moved them from the ambulance trains at the stations to the hospitals in the towns and villages with the greatest care and speed.  Many more would follow.

Introduction to the Battles

Following the successful Battle of Messines in June 1917, which cleared the Germans off the ridge of that name, the main offensive, later named the Third Battle of Ypres or, more familiarly Passchendaele, began. 

The aim was break out of the salient around Ypres, whose defence was costly in lives and to clear the enemy from the Belgian coast where submarine bases were a deadly threat to Britain.

With the French Army in a state of disorder following the failure of Nivelle’s spring offensive on the Chemin des Dames another aim was to tie the Germans down in resisting a major offensive.

The Battles

The attack commenced with a huge preliminary barrage and the Battle of Pilckem which began on 31 July. Whilst British expectations were high, these were largely disappointed.  Terrible weather on top of destruction by the artillery reduced the battlefield to a deep quagmire.

The offensive resumed with the Battle of Langemarck in mid-August, but continued bad weather hampered progress.

Haig transferred the main responsibility for the offensive from Gough and his Fifth Army, to Plumer and his Second Army.

Plumer’s approach was ‘bite and hold’- careful preparation for an attack with a relatively shallow advance; infantry being ‘leapfrogged’ forward to maintain momentum and kept fully within range of their supporting artillery. 

After lengthy preparation, and a period of dry weather, Plumer launched the Battle of Menin Road Ridge in late September, soon followed by the Battle of Polygon Wood, running into early October.

Successful advances were made and the Germans lost heavily as they tried to drive the British back. At Broodseinde on 4 October 1917, both the Australians and Germans attacked, with the Germans getting the worse of it.

The weather deteriorated again for Poelcapelle on 9 October and much ground won was lost to German counterattacks. It was a similar story with 1st Passchendaele on 12 October.

Whilst it had become clear that the wider objectives of the offensive could not be achieved, Haig still saw value in tying down the Germans and in seizing the higher ground before the winter. The Canadian Corps was brought forward for 2nd Passchendaele, which ran from 26 October to 10 November. The ruins of the village of Passchendaele were finally captured on 6 November 1917.

The Cost

The casualties sustained by each side in the Passchendaele campaign have long been argued over. Around a quarter of a million each - dead, wounded and captured - seems realistic.

On top of the casualties, the often terrible conditions of weather and ground for both sides have made the Passchendaele campaign infamous. In April 1918 the threat of an overwhelming German offensive at Ypres meant that ground won at enormous cost in 1917 had to be abandoned.

Yet in Autumn 1918 all that ground was relatively easily recovered and much more gained after the defeat of the repeated German offensives and as the end of the War drew near.

Those who came to Quex Park

The following are some of the men admitted to the Quex Park VAD Hospital having been involved in the battles that we know as ‘Passchendaele’ and earlier patients who took part.

  • Private John Griffiths, 3rd battalion Scots Guards (Patient no. 934) was wounded in the shoulder on 31 July at Pilckem Ridge. His ‘Pension Records’ survive. He was a warehouseman from Liverpool, and regular soldier serving in France from 1914, being wounded in 1915. He was at St. Michael’s, the annexe to the Hospital, 3 August - 7 September 1917.
  • Corporal Edward Wheeler, M.M., 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, 29th Division (Patient no. 945) was wounded in the buttock sometime in August, at Ypres, at the same time winning the Military Medal (one of several awarded for 7-20 August actions.) He was a groom from the Lake District. He was at Quex 17 August – 9 November 1917 so his wound was severe.  In July 1918, he was discharged unfit from the Army.

    His battalion’s war diary is an extraordinarily rich source, including maps and orders. The Division was near Langemarck and endeavouring to establish posts on the far side of the Stenebeke in preparation for an attack. The Lancashire Fusiliers succeeded in this on 10 August and were relieved on 12 August. On 16 August the Division’s attack, for which the battalion and the rest of its brigade were in reserve, was made and was very successful.
  • Private John McCullum , 5th Australian Pioneers, was at St. Michael’s 21 September 1917 – 21 February 1918 (patient no. 1,002) with leg wounds received on 15 September 1917 at Ypres. He was discharged unfit from the Army in August 1918, because of these wounds. His service records are online.
  • Private Sidney Hotston, 12th East Surrey Regiment had been a Quex patient (patient no. 836) 9 May  - 1 June 1917 recovering from diphtheria.  He had been in France since June 1915.

    He went missing in action at Ypres, subsequently presumed to have died on 20 September 1917. He is commemorated at Tyne Cot. His battalion’s war diary with orders for the attack, (Battle of Menin Road Ridge) is available online. It was in 41st Division, which had to advance across the Bassevillebeek valley to capture Tower Hamlets spur. Overnight rain made the advance across the valley difficult and not all objectives were gained, but the German counterattacks were beaten off. The battalion’s dead, wounded and missing amounted to 100 ORs and 13 officers.
  • Private Nicholas Augustus Lockyer, 57th Australian Infantry, was killed in action 25 September 1917 at Ypres. He had previously been treated at Quex for rheumatism 16 April – 7 May 1917 (patient no. 801). He is commemorated on the Menin Gate. His service records are online.
  • Private Nicholas Rimmer ,4th King’s Liverpool Regiment had been a patient (no. 465) with synovitis of the knee in 1916. He had been in France since May 1915. His service records do not survive. He had been downgraded medically and transferred to the Labour Corps for a time. He was killed in action 25 September 1917 at Ypres, and is commemorated at Tyne Cot.

    His battalion’s war diary is available online. It was serving in 98th Brigade, 33rd Division. The Division was relieving the 23rd Division on 25 September when the Germans attacked between Menin Road and Polygon Wood. Despite extensive artillery support, the German attack had little success. The battalion repulsed all attacks, but sustained 90 casualties.
  • Private Patrick Keating , 51st Australian infantry, died of wounds in the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Siding on 27 September 1917. He had previously been treated at Quex for ankle strain in April/May 1917 (patient no. 802). He is buried at Lijssenthoek. His service records are online.
  • Corporal John Inman Isgar, 47th Australian Infantry, was previously wounded in August 1916. He was wounded again in the face, chest and arms, 28 September 1917 at Ypres, and was at Quex 19 – 25 October 1917 (patient no. 1,040). He was discharged unfit in June 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Private Henry Green, 8th Australian Infantry, was wounded 4 October 1917 in the side and hands at Ypres, and was at St. Michael’s 3 November 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,044). He was discharged unfit in July 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Corporal Charles Hay, 21st Australian Infantry, a railway employee, was wounded in the legs on 4 October 1917 at Broodseinde and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,010).   His service records are available, along with his battalion’s war diary. 

    His battalion, was in 2nd Australian Division. The Australians were charged with capturing Broodseinde Ridge in one of Plumer’s carefully planned ‘bite and hold’ attacks. German infantry had been massing for a counterattack and suffered heavily in the surprise British bombardment. The Australians drove them back. The capture of the ridge was a great success, and heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy. However, the battalion sustained more than 250 casualties on 4 October.
  • Corporal Albert Frederick Gordon Hunter, 3rd Australian Infantry was also wounded 4 October 1917, in the shoulder. HE was at St. Michael’s 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,036). He had been wounded previously in July 1916. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Corporal Alfred James Hutchinson, 4th Australian Infantry, was wounded in the head and shoulders on 4 October 1917, at Ypres, and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,017). He was a horse driver who had served at Gallipoli. He was discharged from the Army as unfit from wounds in 1918. His service records, with details on his injuries and treatment, and battalion war diary, are available online.
  • Private Alfred Brooks, 26th Australian Infantry, was wounded in the head 4 October 1917 at Ypres, and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,007). He suffered from memory loss and was discharged unfit in April 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Driver John Lindsay Ogg, M.M. 1st Australian Infantry suffered buttock wounds at Ypres 7 October 1917 and was at Quex  19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient 1,008). He was awarded the Military Medal.

    After taking part in the Passchendaele attack on 4 October 1917 his battalion went back to Chateau Segard briefly, before it relieved the 2nd Battalion on Westhoek Ridge  at 1700 hours on  7 October. Ogg could have been wounded behind the lines by shell or aerial bomb, or whilst bringing up supplies. He returned to France in July 1918. He was still alive in 1967. His service records and unit war diary are online. His son was killed serving with the R.A.A.F. in  1942.
  • Sergeant Joseph Taylor, 20th Australian Infantry, had been a patient (no. 614) in October 1916 with an arm wound. He was a motor wagon builder by trade. He was wounded again in February 1917, and killed in action on 8 October 1917, at Ypres. He was buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, Langemark. His service records are available online, along with his battalion’s war diary.
  • Private Stewart James Dixon, 25th Australian Infantry,was wounded in the face and head 9 October 1917 at Ypres. He was at St. Michael’s 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,038). He was discharged unfit in June 1918.  His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Signaller Laurence Ninnis, 27th Australian Infantry was wounded in the leg 9 October 1917 at Ypres. He was at St. Michael’s 19 October 1917 – 1 January 1918  (patient no. 1,039). His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Sergeant Frank John Dowling, 2nd Australian Pioneers, was wounded at Ypres 9 October 1917 in the arms and legs and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917  (patient no. 1,016). He had originally enlisted under the name Kirkland and was sick at Gallipoli. After being discharged as medically unfit he re-enlisted as Dowling. He was discharged as unfit 16 May 1918, as a double amputee. His service records and battalion war diary are online.
  • Private Arthur Duncan, M.M. 45th Australian Infantry, was wounded at Ypres 10 October 1917, in the back and legs, and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,015). He was a miner, whose real name was Dunn, but having been rejected because of varicose veins, he enlisted under an assumed name as related in a later letter by his father. He served at Gallipoli, with 13th Battalion, where he was wounded in August 1915. He was Mentioned in Dispatches in December 1915.

    After going AWOL twice, he went missing again and was found guilty of desertion in May 1917, although lightly punished. He was wounded again in June 1917 and awarded the Military Medal in the same month.

    He was returned to Australia in May 1918, for discharge  because of his varicose veins. His service records and battalion war diary are online.
  • Driver Ernest Garvin , 50th Brigade,Royal Field Artillery, was wounded at Ypres 10 October 1917 in the face, and was at Quex 19 October – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,021). He was a wireworker from Lancashire. He served on until October.1919. His ‘Burnt’ records are online.
  • Bombardier Bertie Robert Rochester, M.M. 1st Brigade Australian Field Artillery, received multiple wounds on 11 October 1917 at Ypres and was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,018). He was awarded the Military Medal. He was returned to Australia still suffering from his wounds in March 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Private Walter Wilkinson Butler, 9th Australian Machine Gun Corps, was wounded 112 October 1917 in the thigh at Ypres. He was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 1 January 1918  (patient no. 1,013). He was returned to Australia in March 1918, and discharged unfit. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Private Kenneth Caldwell, M.M. 7th Buffs (55th Brigade, 18th Division) was wounded in the side and leg 12 October 1917 at Poelcapelle, Ypres. He was at St. Michael’s
    19 October – 18 December 1917 (patient no. 1,027). He later won the Military Medal with 6th Buffs in August 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.

    The attack, part of the 1st Battle of Passchendaele, failed, being held up by machine guns that had survived the British barrage . The battalion had nearly 400 casualties over two days 12-13 October 1917.
  • Corporal Vivian Graydon Burston, Australian Army Medical Corps, attached 37th battalion, was wounded in leg and foot 13 October 1917 at Ypres. His father had given permission for him to join the Army, but the Medical Corps, not the Infantry. He was at St. Michael’s 19 October 1917 – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,037). His service records and unit war diary are online. He was discharged in May 1919, unfit from trench fever. After the War he became an accountant, was commissioned in 1938 and died in 1956.
  • Private Joseph Wright, 35th Australian Infantry, was wounded 13 October 1917, at Ypres, losing an arm. He was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,012). He was discharged from the Army in September 1918.
  • Private Norman Augustus Laneyrie, 45th Australian Infantry, was wounded in the arm 13 October 19.17 at Ypres, and was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,011). He was returned to Australia in March 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online. He served in the same battalion as Duncan above, being wounded 3 days later.
  • Private Colin Abraham Matthews,42nd Australian Infantry, 11th Australian Brigade was wounded at Ypres, in the leg 13 October 1917, and was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,006). He had been wounded before, in March 1917. He rejoined his battalion in  March 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.

    On 11 October 1917, 42nd Battalion took over, under shellfire, from 2/6th Manchesters, 66th Division near Zonnebeke, from the Ravenbeke to the Roulers Railway, following that Division’s partially successful attack on the Passchendaele Ridge.  “The weather conditions were extremely bad; the ground was in a bad state and every trench soon filled with water and had to be abandoned for a fresh position…. Our men suffered severely owing to abnormal weather conditions during the first 48 hours.”

    During the night of 12/13 October, the battalion and its brigade moved back 1,000 yards to a line of shell holes as divisional reserve. “At this stage 30% of or men had to be evacuated mostly with feet trouble… sitting or lying on ground on which [gas?] shells had burst. The parts of the body in contact with the ground became blistered and painful”. An attack by another two brigades was unsuccessful and they suffered “exceedingly heavy” casualties.
  • Private William Harold Harcourt Williams, 40th Australian Infantry, was wounded in the thigh 13 October 1917 at Ypres, and was at Quex 19 October 1917 – 9 November 1917 (patient  no. 1,009). He returned to France in June 1918. His service records and unit war diary are on line.
  • Private Jesse Breton, 15th Royal Welsh Fusiliers (London Welsh), 38th Division, died of wounds at Ypres 13 October 1917 and was buried at Godewaersvelde. He had previously been a Quex patient with nephritis in 1916 (patient 515). His service records do not survive, and the date of wounding is unknown. His Division had fought at Pilckem, Langemarck and Menin Road Ridge, earlier in the Third Ypres campaign.
  • Private Alfred Wright Martin, 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company, had been a Quex patient in 1915 with abdominal pain (patient 235). With two other sappers, he was killed by a shell on 16 Octobner 1917, near Yeomanry Post, Ypres. They were in a party returning from putting down boreholes to find suitable sites for dugouts. All three are buried at Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres.  His service records and unit war diary are available online.
  •  Private David Cecil Parker, 50th Canadian Infantry, was wounded in the chest 22 October 1917, at Ypres, and was at Quex 9 November 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,053). His full records are online.
  • Private Walter Joseph Joyce, 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, was wounded in the foot, at Ypres 223 October 1917. He was at Quex 99 November 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,052). His service records and unit war diary are available online.
  • Lance Corporal William Young, 2nd Australian Infantry, had been wounded in the back in August 1916 and admitted to St. Michael’s in September 1916 (patient no. 578). He was wounded again 27 October 1917 at Ypres, and died the following day at 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, Remy Siding. He is buried at Lijssenthoek. His service records and unit war diary are online
  • Sergeant John Francis Henderson, 78th Canadian Infantry was wounded in the leg at Passchendaele,  30 October 1917. He was at Quex 9 November 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,055). He was discharged from the Army as medically unfit in June 1918. His service records and unit war diary are online.
  • Private George William Lingard, M.M. 72nd Canadian Infantry (Seaforths) was wounded in the leg 30 October 1917 at Ypres. He was admitted to No.8 Field Ambulance and was at Quex 9 November 1917-5.2.18 (patient no. 1,051). He was awarded a Military Medal and was discharged in 1919.

    His service records and unit war diary are online. There is a detailed account in the war diary of the attack on 30 October 1917. The battalion was obliged to change plans for the attack on Passchendaele as “ground on this line found to be under water or so swampy that it was impassable.”  The attack was very successful, although unable to take and hold Passchendaele village because of British artillery fire. There was a problem with the British artillery firing short because no Forward Observation Officer was working with infantry. Battalion casualties were 50 killed, 220 wounded, 5 missing. An estimated 150 Germans were killed, plus at least 50 more in their counterattack. 4 enemy officers and 130 O.Rs. were captured, along with numerous machine guns.  One man wiped out 3 machine gun crews single handed.
  • Private James Wilton McNab,1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, a former range rider. On 30 October 1917 at Ypres he was wounded in the arm and concussed after being buried for about 20 minutes by shellfire. He was at St. Michael’s 3 – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,048). He was discharged in 1919. His service records and the not very informative war diary for his unit are online.
  • Private Bruno Morabito, 49th Canadian Infantry, was wounded by a shell, in the foot and back, 30 October 1917, at Passchendaele when his unit was providing working parties. He was at Quex 9 November 1917 – 15 January 1918 (patient no. 1,049). His service records and unit war diary are online. Page 57 of his record gives a detailed description of his wounds. He was left with disability in his foot and was discharged unfit in December 1918.
  • Private Chelsea Douglas Cann, Royal Canadian Regiment, was wounded in the arm and leg 31 October 1917 at Ypres and was at Quex 3 – 30 November 1917 (patient no. 1,046.) His service records and unit war diary are online. Near St. Jean, the battalion had been in reserve for a successful attack the previous day. On 31st it moved forward, for what the war diary called a ’fairly quiet’ day. 1 officer was gassed, and 2 other ranks killed in action. 2 other ranks were evacuated  to a Casualty Clearing Station, 19 other ranks were wounded in action.
  • Private Norquay Jonas Oliver, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, was wounded in the arm, by an aerial bomb, 31 October 1917 at Ypres, being treated initially by No. 12 Casualty Clearing Station. His unit’s war diary does not mention such an incident. It was near Passchendaele at the time. He was at Quex 9 November 1917 – 1 January 1918 (patient no. 1,054). His full records are available online. He died in 1974.
  • Private John Paterson, 26th Australian Infantry was killed in action 1 November 1917 and buried at Aeroplane Cemetery, Ypres. He had been a patient at Quex (patient no. 660) with pyrexia in November 1916. His service records and unit war diary are available online.
  • Sergeant William Frederick White, 19th Canadian Infantry was wounded in the arm at Ypres, probably early November 1917, and was at Quex 9 November 1917 – 5 February 1918 (patient no. 1,050). His full records are not yet online.
  • Private Edward George Chenhall, 75th Canadian Infantry, a farmer. He was mustard gassed in early November at Ypres, and was at Quex 9 – 30 November 1917 (patient np. 1,056). He had previously been wounded in March 1917 and was later killed in action 27 September 1918. He is buried in Sains-les-Marquions British Cemetery in France. His service records are online.

 

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