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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Percy William Last Name: PANTON
Date of Death: 03/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Southall
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Berkshire1
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Born-Notting Hill

 

First Battle of Ypres

Between 21st October and 22nd November, 1914 a desperate fight took place around the Belgium city of Ypres, the first of three major battles that were to be fought there during the course of the war. British troops entered Ypres in October. The 1st and 2nd Divisions plus the 3rd Cavalry Division had made their way up from the Aisne as part of the “Race to the Sea”, whilst the 7th Division came west to Ypres after Antwerp had fallen. The Germans knew that Ypres was the gateway to the Channel ports and that these were vital to Britain’s war effort so they poured reinforcements into the area. The fighting fell into three distinct battles; the Battle of Langemarck, 21-24 October, the Battle of Gheluvelt, 29-31 October and the Battle of Nonne Bosschen, 11 November. Ypres did not fall to the Germans but its defence during these two months resulted in the destruction of much of the old regular British Army.

From 29th to 31st October a massive concentration of German troops tried to break the British line around Gheluvelt at the eastern apex of the Ypres salient. 1st and 7th Divisions stood in their path. On the 29th October, after a day of intense fighting, often hand to hand, the British were pushed back to the Gheluvelt cross roads. The following day the Germans attacked Gheluvelt itself and although the village remained in British hands, German troops had some success further south at Zandvoorde and were now able to enfilade the British line. Then on 31st October came the main German attack and Gheluvelt fell. At one stage the it seemed that all was lost but a dramatic counter attack by 2nd Worcestershire, stabilised the line. However, the loss to the British army had been enormous.

On 31st October, the day on which John Salesman was killed, the situation was desperate and the decision was taken to use 2nd Division reserves, 1st Liverpool (Kings), three companies of 2nd Worcestershire and two companies of 1st Royal Berkshire of 6 Brigade then near the south-west corner of Polygon Wood, not to reinforce the troops near Gheluvelt but to counter attack the German flank from the north. The two companies of 1st Royal Berkshire were now ordered up to secure the left flank of 1st Scots Guards where a gap had appeared.  They met heavy fire from the embankment of the light railway west of the chateau grounds, but charged and captured it. That night the two companies of 1st Royal Berkshire were sent back into reserve and on the following day, 1st November the companies of 1st Royal Berkshire were dispatched to different sections of 2nd Division’s front to support other units. On 3rd November after further heavy fighting, the battalion was withdrawn back into reserve positions in a wood. One of their casualties was Percy Panton.

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