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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: William Datons Last Name: COLLIS
Date of Death: 20/04/1915 Lived/Born In: Mortlake
Rank: Private Unit: East Surrey1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Enlisted-Kingston

 

The Battle of Hill 60 (17 April – 7 May 1915)

Hill 60 was at the southern end of the Ypres Salient and was a man made mound from earth excavated from the nearby railway. It was an important vantage point for whoever controlled it which, at the beginning of 1915, were the Germans. In April  1915, 5th Division took over the line in front of it and prepared to capture it. On 17th April six mines were blown beneath it which so shocked and dazed the defending Germans that 13 Brigade was able to capture it, sustaining only 7 casualties. However, holding it was a much more difficult task. German artillery began to pound the position and that night they launched three counter attacks which were only repelled after heavy losses and only after the British had been forced back to the crest of the hill. Later that evening British counter attacks retook all of the hill The next three days saw intense German shelling of the position and numerous counter attacks until it was a mass of shell holes and mine craters. Between 1st and 5th May the Germans launched a series of attacks preceded by gas and eventually after desperate fighting, took back the hill.

During the night of 16-17 April, 13 Brigade, 5th Division took over the trenches in front of Hill 60 with 1st Royal West Kent and 2nd Scottish Borderers in front. At 7am the next day 6 mines were blown and and 1st Royal West Kent and 2nd Scottish Borderers  stormed and captured the hill. At first the German response was slow and they had time to consolidate their new positions but just after midnight  the Germans made a determined attack to retake the hill. The British troops on the hill were subjected to a terrific artillery bombardment and were pushed back to the crest on the right. However most of Hill 60 still remained in British hands.

At 8.30am on 18th April , 2nd West Riding relieved 1st Royal West Kent and 2nd Scottish Borderers. After a day of heavy shelling and fierce fighting a counter attack was launched at 6pm by 2nd West Riding and 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry which regained the whole hill.

That night 15 Brigade relieved 13 Brigade and 1st Bedfordshire, with 1st East Surrey from 14 Brigade attached, took over the trenches on Hill 60. Throughout 19th April, a day spent clearing the trenches of dead and wounded and improving the defences, the position was shelled continuously by the Germans with their fire being directed mainly on the support and communication trenches in rear of the hill. The 20th April was a day of ferocious fighting. At 11am a extremely heavy bombardment of the British positions on the hill commenced. Trenches were obliterated and many men were buried alive. An even fiercer shelling of the British positions began at 4pm which cut all communications to the rear. There were two German infantry attacks that evening and they continued to batter at the British positions all night. Some ground was lost in the desperate and confused fighting but Hill 60 remained in British hands. At dawn on 21st April 1st East Surrey and 1st Bedfordshire , sorely depleted in numbers, were relieved.

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