Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Bunting and Holly

In September 1914 Cheshire Yeomanry were posted to Norfolk on coastal defence duties. In October the regiment moved from camp at Kirby Cane Hall to a new camp at Langley Park, Loddon, not far from Norwich. Initially under canvas, in November huts were being erected, including stabling for 500 horses.

For Christmas some of the men were to be allowed home for three days, while those remaining had been promised a ‘good old Cheshire Christmas in Norfolk’. On December 23 the regiment received intelligence reports of a pending German raid. As a consequence, it stood to in full marching order on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day from an hour before dawn until 9 a.m. Nothing happened.

Despite this, and the disappointment of not being allowed leave to get home, they made the most of their Christmas.

The sector of coast allotted to the regiment included Gorleston, the name given to the southern part of Great Yarmouth, and the coast immediately south of it. At 4 a.m. on Christmas morning B Squadron (Chester) were manning their coastal defence positions, until all was reported clear. This did not prevent the men from enjoying a good old-fashioned dinner of turkeys and plum puddings, the squadron dining in one of the hotels overlooking the sea.

The remainder of the men back at Langley Park, and as soon as they were informed that all was clear, set about making things as much like Christmas as possible. Two of the huts were decorated with bunting and holly. There being an abundance of holly and mistletoe in the woods adjoining, they transformed the huts into a veritable winter garden. Weather conditions were also ideal, with a hard frost the massive trees in the Park looked beautiful in their winter garb of hoar frost.

Dear Mother, This is a photo taken of our troops
while we were having dinner. Jim

Monday, 11 December 2017

Jerusalem Surrenders

At the end of October 1917 Sgt. Thomas Minshall, 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry, was in Cairo at the Imperial School of Instruction. On 8 December 1917 Thomas Minshall was appointed to a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Bn. Suffolk Regiment.

Jerusalem surrendered on 9 December 1917, and Thomas’ papers include this souvenir photograph of Sir Edmund Allenby’s entry into Jerusalem on 11 December.

It is not known what date Thomas returned from Cairo and joined Suffolk Yeomanry. The movements of the two Regiments he is associated with, at the time of Jerusalem's surrender, are summarised in the following War Diary extracts:

War Diary, 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry
8 December
Nos. 2 & 4 Coys relieved 25th R.W.F. extending our line to ROMAN ROAD in R35d. Very wet night
9 December From Batt O.P. much enemy movement observed as result of attack on Jerusalem by 20th Corps. ZEITOUN and JOFFIER ridges and RAFAT were seen to be still occupied. Patrol under Sgt. Price entered EL JIB and found enemy had left about 2100 on 8th.
10 December  No.4 Coy were withdrawn into reserve at BEIT IZZA
11 December  2 Coys. 25 R.W.F. were sent to increase Batt. Reserve under Major DUGDALE and were placed one in R34d and one in BEIT IZZA
9-14 December Weather very fine and cold, daily patrols to EL JIB and nightly patrols to N & E. No sign of enemy outside his main position in JOFEIR Ridge which was closely observed from O.P. and was seen to be strongly held by Machine Guns in SANGARS linked up along crest of ridge. These posts were all pointed out to R.A. and noted for future reference.

War Diary, 15th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Bn. Suffolk Regiment
8 December In accordance with 230th Brigade Order No 30 for the attack on Turkish positions S & S.W. of NEBI SAMWIL, the BN. Left Bivouac area at 0130.

The First objective was some Turkish positions running N. & S. through T.18a T.18.C and T24.a. The Bn. With exception of D. Coy which followed the assaulting Bns as “moppers up” needed in support at T10.b in wadi RUWAI. The position was captured about 0800 and Bn moved up to T17 under rather heavy shell fire & thence to T17.b.

1115 Brigade after 1/2 hour artillery preparation advanced to occupy the attack on EL BURJ. The attack was hung up by very heavy enfilade machine gun fire and the Bn. Moved up to support the left (ie the Norfolks). They also came under the enfilade fire from NEBI SAMWIL. The Brigade was withdrawn slightly to a better line & held an outpost line during the night.
9 December The Sussex were ordered to proceed and occupy high ground N. of BEIT HANINA. Soon after arrival we had orders to return & relieve the 24th Welsh in NEBI SAMWIL arriving to heavy for and rain we missed the guides of the 24th Welsh and they were not relieved unil 0100.
10 December
Orders were received to withdraw Bn, to x roads S.W. of BIDDU for work on roads. As soon as any movement was shown the enemy started shelling heavily without casualties, but the reserve Coy & H.Q. had to remain until after dark. The total casualties during these operations were 1 officer (died of wounds) and 1 (wounded) 8 ORs killed & 47 wounded.
11 & 12 December Bn. employed working on the BIDDU ENAB Rd.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Commissioned in the Field

Thomas Minshall, of Northwich, Cheshire, enlisted with Cheshire Yeomanry at Chester, on 27 August 1914. The regiment was based in Norfolk on home defence duties until March 1916, when it sailed for Egypt.

At the end of the 1916 Cheshire Yeomanry learnt it was to be formed into an infantry battalion, and amalgamated with Shropshire Yeomanry to form 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry. The new Battalion was placed under orders of 231st Infantry Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division.

Thomas had gained several promotions, and by June 1917 he was an Acting Sergeant. In October 1917 he was studying at ‘Cadet Class’, the Imperial School of Instruction, Zeitoun, a suburb of Cairo.

2nd Lieutenant T.B. Minshall
15th (Yeomanry) Bn. Suffolk Regiment
London Gazette
8 February 1918
Successfully completing his training, on 8 December 1917 Thomas Minshall was granted a Commission in the Field as 2nd Lieutenant 1/1st Suffolk Yeomanry (Duke of York’s Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars).

In the same reorganisation that affected both the Shropshire and Cheshire Yeomanry, so Suffolk Yeomanry had been converted to infantry and became 15th (Yeomanry) Bn. Suffolk Regiment. They were under orders of 230th Infantry Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division.

No information has been found to date of when Thomas reached the Suffolk Regiment in the field, from his training in Cairo. In December 1917 the Regiment was positioned amongst the hills and villages to the north west of Jerusalem, as part of the general advance on the city.

Notice of Thomas’ promotion was published in the London Gazette, 8 February 1918.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The night was fine

On the night of 29th/30th October 1917, Captain C.H. Carruthers and 2nd Lieutenants Schutze and Beale lead a party of 60 men on a raid on German trenches. All were from ‘A’ Company, 2/6th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. The night was fine, the moon being exceptionally bright.

The objects of the raid were straight forward:

(a) To kill the enemy and take prisoners
(b) To destroy dugouts and emplacements
(c) To obtain identifications

British and German trenches east of Arras from a November 1917 map. 
The square is where the raid of 30 October 1917 took place.

Detail map from the raid report showing the line taken between British and German trenches;
the British front-line trenches are those on the left.