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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: George Last Name: WHITFORD
Date of Death: 16/06/1915 Lived/Born In: Wapping
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers4
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:


Attack at Bellewaarde  16th June, 1915

This attack was carried out with the objective of capturing the Bellewaarde Ridge, thereby depriving the enemy of a valuable vantage point and to straighten out the line between Hooge and Railway Wood. The width of no-man’s-land varied from 50 yards in the centre to 200 yards on the flanks. It was a very well prepared action. Telephone lines were laid in triplicate and in case they failed the pigeon service was brought into action. The German wire was dealt with by high explosive shells and proved not to be a hindrance. Jumping off trenches were dug and there was no real attempt to conceal the place of the attack. The element of surprise would be in the timing.  The attack was to be made by 9 Brigade and 7 Brigade, both of 3rd Division, in three waves, each successive one pushing further into German territory until Bellewaarde Ridge itself was taken. The bombardment of the German positions began at 2.30am and at 4.15am the first infantry wave went in and the German front line was taken with little resistance. But then things started to go wrong. When the second wave rose to attack, so did the third and in the confusion and crowded trenches that ensued the whole advance went too quickly and they ran into their own barrage before it lifted, mist and smoke preventing the gunners from observing what was happening. This disorganised the attack, which was swept by accurate hostile fire from three sides, and it degenerated into confused fighting with bombs and bayonets. Nevertheless the second German line was attacked and taken and some even made it to the third enemy line. A German counter attack at 7.30am was repelled but two hours later ammunition and bombs were running out, the shells were falling thick and fast so there was a general withdrawal back to the first line captured with a few units hanging on in more forward positions until later in the day. Another attack was ordered for 3.30pm and 42 Brigade of 14th Division began moving up to support this. But they arrived too late and only two battalions managed to attack and neither achieved anything except more death and injury. At 6pm the decision was taken to consolidate the initial gains that had been made, namely  the German front line for half a mile between the Menin road and Railway Wood, and the area of No Man’s Land behind but the enemy remained in possession of Bellewaarde ridge and the observation posts on it. 8 Brigade took over the line and 7,9 and 42 Brigades were withdrawn to rest.  3rd Division casualties amounted to over 3,500 almost all of which were the result of artillery fire, including ‘friendly fire’.  German losses were less than 500.

9 Brigade of 3rd Division provided the first wave of the attack with 4th Royal Fusiliers, 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers and 1st Northumberland Fusiliers going over the top at 4.15am. According to the battalion diary the attack at first went ‘marvellously’ but then in the excitement and confusion of battle the attackers went ahead too quickly and were blown to bits by the covering British artillery fire. Those that could moved back to a communication trench which they converted into a fire trench and defended against all opposition until 10am when the survivors were ordered into a nearby wood to reorganise where they were subjected to heavy shelling until they eventually fell back to the German first line. 4th Royal Fusiliers suffered 369 casualties on this day, over half of them killed or missing.

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