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Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Belgium Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Belgium
First Name: John Last Name: COLLINS
Date of Death: 13/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Blackfriars
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Scots Fusiliers1
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Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Belgium


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.

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.

On 11th November the Prussian Guards attacked along the Menin Road and forced a gap between 4th Royal Fusiliers and French troops at Veldhoek. 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers of 9 Brigade, 3rd Division were in reserve and they were immediately sent up to close this breach. This they managed to do but without regaining the lost trenches. The following day they tried once more to recapture the lost trenches but were unable to do so and as they were in danger of being isolated they were pulled back. By 13th November the enemy had occupied the stables at  Hooge Chateau and a party of 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers were sent to expel them. They were dislodged from the chateau but not the stables. A bayonet charge could not evict them from that position and that evening the Germans penetrated the line held by 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers and captured 40 men. The battalion suffered many casualties on this and the next day, one of them being John Collins.


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