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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Robert Edward Last Name: EAGLES
Date of Death: 26/04/1915 Lived/Born In: Brentford
Rank: Private Unit: Middlesex8
Memorial Site: 1. Brentford Memorial 2. Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Born-Bedford

Battle of St Julien, 24 April – 4 May 1915

Spurred on by the success of their gas attack on 22nd April, the Germans struck again two days later on the northern sector of the Ypres salient at St. Julien.  Once more chlorine gas was used and despite a resolute defence the British and Canadians were pushed back and St Julien was lost. For nearly 2 weeks the fighting continued on this front. The Germans persisted with their attacks, the British fought desperate rear guard actions and launched many counter attacks but gradually they were pushed further and further back. Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres.

8th Middlesex had arrived in France on 9th March, 1915 and joined 85 Brigade, 28th Division. On 24th April, when the German attack began, the reserves of 28th Division, 1st Suffolk and 12th London plus two companies of 8th Middlesex, moved from Frezenberg and Verlorenhoek to Fortuin.  They moved up under heavy shell fire with every road ranged by the German artillery and once they arrived there was no cover except the shallow trenches they could dig behind the crowded GHQ line.

On 25th April the main German attack fell on the spur between the main Ypres ridge and a stream called the Strombeek, where 2nd East Surrey and 3rd Royal Fusiliers were in the line. It started at 5am with an artillery bombardment. Shrapnel swept the bare slopes for 4 hours after which came gas and high explosive. “B” Company of 8th Middlesex  were in close support and at 11.30am a shell fell plumb in their trench killing all of No.6 platoon. At 1pm, from trenches only 70 yards away the Germans attacked the right of 2nd East Surrey, on a ¼ mile stretch between the top of the ridge and the railway cutting and broke in at several places. The Germans advanced in the open attempting to surround “B” Company who were saved from this fate by the prompt arrival of “A” Company, advancing in the open and reinforcing their right.  Now, 8th Middlesex and the survivors from 2nd East Surrey counter attacked with a charge into the face of German fire.  Many fell in the hand to hand fighting that followed but the Germans were driven back 150 yards and some of the lost trench was recaptured.

Just before dawn on 26 April  the Germans advanced again and D Company of 8th Middlesex was sent to the gap between 1st Hampshire and 3rd Royal Fusiliers to try to stem the tide. But they themselves were outflanked and were forced to retire to a position 500 yards back. The Germans kept on coming and another retirement took place. In the confusion of battle a party of 8th Middlesex, commanded by Major Ruston was surrounded and captured or killed but the remainder made it back to battalion HQ at Verlorenhoek.

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