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Menin Gate, Ypres Menin Gate, Ypres
First Name: Percy Valentine Last Name: LEWIN
Date of Death: 16/08/1917 Lived/Born In: Maida Vale
Rank: Rifleman Unit: London16
Memorial Site: Menin Gate, Ypres

Current Information:

Age-19

Born-Suffolk

Enlisted-St Pauls

 

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 Langemarck

This took place between 16th-18th August, 1917 and was the second general attack of 3rd Ypres. Although it did not rain during the two days of the battle itself there had been plenty of it in the preceding days and in many places the battlefield was a quagmire. On the left of the attack in the north-west of the Ypres salient there was considerable success,  especially for the French Army which attacked on the left of the British, but the attack on the Gheluvelt Plateau, due east of Ypres, met determined German resistance and the early gains were soon reversed.

On 16th August, 56th Division attacked at 4.45am on the right of the battle front, with 169 and 167 Brigades. They also had a brigade from 18th Division attached to form a southern defensive flank. 169 Brigade attacked on the right with 5th London and 2nd London. These two battalions were faced by a marsh as they moved forward and in moving sideways to avoid this they lost contact with their defensive flank. Nevertheless both reached the first objective and occupied a line of pillbox shelters in a sunken lane running through Glencorse Wood. Here they halted for a while and the support battalion, 9th London, passed through towards the next objective, Polygon Wood. 16th London were in reserve with one company acting as ‘moppers-up’ for 2nd London and another company detailed to take supplies, mostly ammunition, forward. When 2nd London’s attack was held up a company moved up in close support but in the appalling muddy conditions progress was very slow and no further progress was possible. Later in the day a German counter attack drove both brigades of 56th Division back to their starting line. Nothing had been gained but many lives had been lost, including that of Percy Lewin of 16th London.

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