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First Name: James Last Name: RYAN
Date of Death: 06/05/1915 Lived/Born In: Walworth
Rank: Sergeant Unit: West Riding2
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Bailleul Communal Cemetery, France

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

Hill 60 is at the southern end of the Ypres Salient and is 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 discombobulated 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 early next morning 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.

On 5th May, 1915, 2nd West Riding, 13 Brigade, 5th Division were holding the trenches on Hill 60 with 1st Norfolk and 1st Bedfordshire, both of 15 Brigade, 5th Division, in close proximity. At 8.45am the Germans released gas against the British positions on the hill. The gas alarm was sounded but the plan whereby in case of a gas attack the men moved to the flanks and let the supports attack, was not possible to implement because the gas was released on to the flanks, drifted slowly and hung around, very thickly, for a long while affecting a long stretch of the trench. Respirators were inadequate.  Some retired to the support line the rest were overcome by the ensuing German infantry attack which came 15 minutes later.  1st Dorset, also of 15 Brigade, rushed men along the railway cutting to a trench on the right of 2nd West Riding’s line and began bombing up it.  Gaining a communication trench they fought back and forth all day.  At 11am the enemy released gas again, this time directed against 1st Bedfordshire, in positions north-east of the Hill.  The right of 1st Bedfordshire in the Zwarteleen salient fell back thus increasing the gap left by 2nd West Riding.  The left held on at and at 12.30pm were reinforced by 1st Cheshire and a company of 6th Liverpool.  After repeated counter attacks by all units the Germans were forced back and some of the trenches regained but the crest of Hill 60 remained in German hands.  At 9pm, 1st Royal West Kent, 2nd Scottish Borderers and 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, all of 13 Brigade, arrived with orders to retake the  Hill and at 10pm, after a 20 minute bombardment, 1st Royal West Kent, 2nd Scottish Borderers attacked. However, the enemy fire was very heavy, the night was dark, the ground unknown and littered with wire, old trenches and shell holes. The attackers lost direction and the attack failed. 2nd Scottish Borderers reached the crest but were driven off at 1am on 6th May by enfilade fire from The Caterpillar and Zwarteleen.

Sergeant Ryan died of wounds on this day and he was likely to have been one of the many wounded during this action.

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