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First Name: William Lyon Last Name: SCOTTON
Date of Death: 21/09/1917 Lived/Born In: Pinner
Rank: Private Unit: Royal Fusiliers32
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Born-Pinner

Outtersteene Communal Cemetery, Bailleul, France

 

The Third Battle of Ypres

This was a campaign fought between July and November 1917 and is often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele, a village to the north-east of Ypres which was finally captured in November. It was an attempt by the British to break out of the Ypres salient and capture the higher ground to the south and the east from which the enemy had been able to dominate the salient. It began well but two important factors weighed against them. First was the weather. The summer of 1917 turned out to be one of the the wettest on record and soon the battlefield was reduced to a morass of mud which made progress very difficult, if not impossible in places. The second was the defensive arrangements of concrete blockhouses and machine gun posts providing inter-locking fire that the Germans had constructed and which were extremely difficult and costly to counter. For 4 months this epic struggle continued by the end of which the salient had been greatly expanded in size but the vital break out had not been achieved.

The Battle of the Menin Road. 20th-25th September, 1917

After the disappointing opening battles of the last day of July and the middle of August, when very little had been gained but at great cost in casualties, a new approach was adopted for the next offensive against the Gheluvelt plateau which began on 20th September and became known as the Battle of the Menin Road. The task was handed over to General Plumer, commander of the Second Army, a more cautious leader who, rather than try to drive as deep as possible into the German line, was an advocate of 'bite and hold' tactics with limited advances of no more than 1,500 yards, based on overwhelming firepower and exhaustive preparation. These new tactics, which were significantly aided by a period of warm, dry weather, worked well and September and early October saw a decisive phase of Third Ypres in which the British gained the upper hand. At the same time that Plumer’s Second Army were hammering away at the German defences on the Gheluvelt plateau, Fifth Army also attacked in the northern part of the Ypres salient and they too made gains.

At 5.40am on 20th September, 41st Division attacked from a position south of the Menin Road, through the northern part of Shrewsbury Forest with the Tower Hamlets Ridge as their objective. On the right of the divisional front, 124 Brigade had the 10th Royal West Surrey (Queens) and 21st King’s Royal Rifle Corps battalions in front and the 26th Royal Fusiliers and 32nd Royal Fusiliers battalions in support. The two battalions in front immediately came under heavy fire from enemy machine guns resulting in significant disorganization but by 9:25am it was reported that these had been dealt with and soon afterwards the first objective, the Red Line, was reached. There were again heavy casualties from machine gun fire as they attacked the second objective line, just ahead of the Bassevillebeek, and the two support battalions, which should have pushed on to the final objective were caught up in the fighting, so much so that by the time the second line was captured, between 11am and 12noon, the brigade was not strong enough for a full attack on the final objective and had to dig in behind the line gained by the rest of Second Army. However a number of enemy counter attacks were beaten off and the position was secured by the evening. 32nd Royal Fusiliers remained in these forward positions, under constant shell-fire, until relieved during the night of 22nd/23rd September. Among the many casualties suffered by the battalion was William Scotton who died from wounds on 21st September.

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