Saturday, 20 June 2015

Genealogy Saturday: Diary of WWI soldier’s last days


Granda’s first cousin, Camillus Wynne,  served as a rifleman in the British Army during World War One. Many of you will remember him from previous blog posts. He died in the horrific Battle at Bellewaarde, in Flanders, on 16 June 1915 - 100 years ago. The army's 'war diaries' provide a first-hand account of Camillus’ final days and hours. They make for fascinating, if somewhat harrowing,  reading:

14 June 1915
In Bivouac - Officers lectured by 2nd in command on the King’s Regulations. Copies of the Corps Commander’s message complimenting the Battalion on the gallantry displayed in October last at NEUVE CHAPELLE, when it repulsed the enemy with the bayonet, were distributed to companies and read out on parade.

Sports were held in the afternoon. The principle event was the high jump for the Commanding Officer’s prize. This was won by a jump of 4 [feet] 9 1/2 [inches]

15 June 1915
In Bivouac - The Battalion paraded at 5.30 pm and marched to the assembly trenches between WHITEPOORT FARM and Railway to support 9th Infantry Brigade in an attack on BELLEWAARDE SPUR. Strength - 21 Officers, 630 other ranks.

16 June 1915
The bombardment of our artillery commenced at 2.50 A.M., lasting until 4.15 A.M., when the 9th Infantry Brigade assaulted, carrying the first three lines of German trenches. The 2nd Royal Irish Rifles supported the left – ‘C’ Company followed by ‘D’ Company on right, ‘A’ Company, followed by ‘B’ Company on left, with orders to consolidate the first German line.

‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies, carried away by their runners, pushed through to the 3rd line, closing up with the assaulting troops under E.C. FARRAN & Lieutenant C.H.H. EALES. The companies were then reorganised and withdrawn in perfect order to the first line, which they put in a state of defence.

‘A’ Company, under 2nd Lieutenant W.E. Andrews, was similarly engaged on the left. Owing to heavy artillery fire which soon developed, ‘B’ Company was unable to follow ‘A’ Coy quickly. They were formed up on CAMBRIDGE Road, 250 yards behind, preparatory to making another effort to get through, when they were unfortunately shelled by enfilade fire, causing 30 or 40 casualties. The remainder of the company was then withdrawn and kept in battalion support for the remainder of the day.

During the day, from early morning to nightfall, the Battalion was subjected to terrific artillery bombardment.

The non-commissioned officers and men of all companies distinguished themselves by the discipline, coolness and steadiness, under most trying circumstances.

At no time during the day can it be said that they were at any time shaken by the ordeal. For instance, at 3.30 P.M., after hours of bombardment, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies, with very short notice, were called upon to attack. It possessed just as much spirit and dash as their early morning attack. Both of these attacks were gallantly led by E.C. FARRAN, who was wounded and became missing, and 2nd Lieut. C.H.H. EALES, who was uninjured.

‘A’ Company consolidated and held in a most determined manner, the left flank of the German trenches, and handed them over intact to the Royal Scots who relieved them at midnight. 2nd Lieut. W.E. Andrews, who commanded this portion of the line, deserves the highest praise for able way in which this difficult operation was carried out. The Battalion was relieved at 1.29 A.M. having acquitted itself in a manner which has called forth praise from the Corps Commander.

The following officers and about 300 other ranks [including Philip Camillus Wynne] became casualties: 

  • Capt. C.M.L BECHER, slightly wounded
  • Capt. E.C. FARRAN, 3rd R. Ir. Rifles, wounded and missing
  • Lieut. W.E.S. HOWARD, 4th R. Ir. Rifles, wounded
  • Lieut. D.M. ANDERSON, 5th R. Ir. Rifles, wounded
  • 2nd Lt E.J. HOARE, wounded
  • 2nd Lt J.G. BLAND, wounded
  • 2nd Lt F.C.P. JOY, 3rd R. Ir. Rifles, killed
  • 2nd Lt E.B. KERTLAND, 4/R Irish Fus., wounded and missing
  • 2nd Lt R.L. VANCE, 4/R Irish Fus., wounded
  • 2nd Lt T.J. CONSIDINE, 5/R Dub Fus., wounded
  • 2nd Lt C.H. WALE, Special list, wounded
  • 2nd Lt J.M. MC INTOSH, killed
  • 2nd Lt A.A. RAYMOND, slightly wounded, remained at duty.



Source: Transcribed from the ‘War Diary’ of the Second Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, June 1915, ‘UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920’, Ancestry.com, citing First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries, WO 95/1096–3948, The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, Surrey, England. 
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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

2 comments:

  1. Dara, that's a terrific source. It has allowed you to paint a grim picture of those last days, almost as if he had left a diary.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Colleen, isn't is amazing what's now available online?

    ReplyDelete