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Zillebeke Churchyard, Belgium Zillebeke Churchyard, Belgium
First Name: William Last Name: GIBSON
Date of Death: 16/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Ilford
Rank: Private Unit: London14
Memorial Site: 1. Ilford, Newbury Park 2. East Ham, Central Park Memorial

Current Information:

38, Mayfair Avenue, Ilford

Zillebeke Churchyard, Belgium


The Battle of Nonne Bosschen 

The battle of Nonne Bosschen  on 11th November, 1914 was the final German attempt to break through the British lines around Ypres. They threw twelve and a half divisions into an attack against a nine mile front, stretching from Messines to Reutel (close to Polygon Wood). The main thrust of their attack was either side of the Menin Road where two fresh divisions, numbering around 10,000 men were thrown against eleven tired and depleted British divisions of around 4000 men. The attack was launched at 9 am after the heaviest artillery barrage yet seen and was protected by early morning mist. Astride the Menin Road the defenders were forced to give ground but more critical was the attack that penetrated the Guards Brigade line just to the north and allowed the Germans to get into Nonne Bosschen woods and threaten the artillery line. This threat was averted in the afternoon when a counter attack cleared the Germans from the wood. There was now no chance of a breakthrough and although the Germans made a few minor attacks over the next few days the First Battle of Ypres was finished.

After having been heavily involved in the fighting at Messines at the beginning of the month, 14th London (London Scottish),  arrived at Hooge in the Ypres salient on 7th November to join 1 Brigade, 1st Division.  On 8th November they moved to Zillebeke and into trenches in the wood 1 ½ miles, south-east of the village. Here they stayed until 13th November, heavily shelled day and night and in a position of constant anxiety. On 11th November, at 6.30am, the whole of the British line here was heavily shelled accompanied by a constant rain of rifle bullets. Then, from the German trenches, only 100 yards away, came the enemy infantry, advancing in large numbers from the woods behind them. By this time 14th London were fighting in two separate groups, having men from 2nd Welsh and 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers between them, and a very strong force of Germans were heading towards the right group Their right flank was enveloped and things looked serious until a counter attack against the exposed left flank of the enemy was made by some of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps which restored the situation.  Later the left half of 14th London also came under serious attack and this time the situation was saved by bringing up what remained of Battalion HQ into the line. By the end of the day the Germans had made no gains in this sector. During the night of 13-14th November, 14th London were withdrawn form the line and moved back to a wood near Hooge before going into Corps reserve the next day. Among the casualties suffered by 14th London during this tense period was William Gibson on 11th November.


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