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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Oswald Montague Last Name: BAILEY
Date of Death: 14/09/1917 Lived/Born In: Wembley
Rank: Lance Corporal Unit: London2/1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


"Wembley Croft," High Road, Wembley



Third Battle of Ypres

This was a campaign fought between July and November 1917 and is often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele, a village to the north-east of Ypres which was finally captured in November. It was an attempt by the British to break out of the Ypres salient and capture the higher ground to the south and the east from which the enemy had been able to dominate the salient. It began well but two important factors weighed against them. First was the weather. The summer of 1917 turned out to be one of the the wettest on record and soon the battlefield was reduced to a morass of mud which made progress very difficult, if not impossible in places. The second was the defensive arrangements of concrete blockhouses and machine gun posts providing inter-locking fire that the Germans had constructed and which were extremely difficult and costly to counter. For 4 months this epic struggle continued by the end of which the salient had been greatly expanded in size but the vital break out had not been achieved.

58th Division arrived at Ypres during the last week of August, 1917 and on 11th September, 1917, 2/1st London of 173 Brigade moved forward from their training camp to reserve positions on the Canal Bank before taking over the front line in the St Julien sector on the following day. Here movement was only possible by moving along duckboards, the positions of which were well known to the German gunners who regularly targeted them and to move off of these duckboards risked drowning in the mud. It was impossible to dig trenches in any conventional sense so the soldiers held an outpost line of shell holes, often standing in water and mud up to their waists all day, for relief was only possible at night.

On 14th September, ‘A’ Company undertook an attack against two enemy strongpoints: Winnipeg and Jury Farm. The attack went in at 3am, preceded by an artillery barrage which was followed within a few minutes by a German counter barrage. This, along with hostile machine-gun fire, caused considerable confusion and casualties among the assaulting troops. The enemy were holding their positions in much greater strength than had been anticipated and it proved impossible to capture any of the objectives. Survivors made it back to their own lines and the day then quietened down until the evening, when about 150 of the enemy attacked two strongholds held by 2/1st London: Springfield and Spot Farm. At the same time the German artillery lay down a barrage on the support and reserve lines held by the battalion. But the line held, the posts were not captured and the enemy fell back to their own trenches. At some stage during the day’s proceedings Oswald Bailey was killed.

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