Messines, 1914

The Battle of Messines was fought in October 1914 between the armies of the German and British empires, as part of the Race to the Sea, between the river Douve and the Comines–Ypres canal.

The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.

Armentieres, 1914

The Battle of Armentières was fought by German and Franco-British forces in northern France in October 1914, during reciprocal attempts by the armies to envelop the northern flank of their opponent, which has been called the Race to the Sea.

The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.

Ypres, 1914, 15

The Ypres salient saw brutal fighting throughout the First World War. It was created in 1914 when Allied forces fought the German advance to the Belgian coast to a standstill. In 1915, the German Army launched its only offensive on the Western Front that year against the salient.

The Honour is borne on the Guidon of the 4th Hussars.

Langemark, 1914

On October 22, 1914, in a bitter two-day stretch of hand-to-hand fighting, German forces capture the Flemish town of Langemark from its Belgian and British defenders during the First Battle of Ypres. The trench lines built in the fall of 1914 between the town of Ypres, on the British side, and Menin and Roulers, on the German side—known as the Ypres salient—became the site of some of the fiercest battles of World War I, beginning in October 1914 with the so-called First Battle of Ypres. The battle, launched on October 19, was a vigorous attempt by the Germans to drive the British out of the salient altogether, thus clearing the way for the German army to access the all-important Belgian coastline with its access to the English Channel and, beyond, to the North Sea.

The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.


In 1914 the Germans invaded France. Their aim was to overwhelm the French and British Armies, bypass Paris and seize the Channel Ports. Only the British Army remained, at Ypres, to stem the advancing Germans and save the Channel Ports and Paris. The crisis of the Battle of Ypres hinged around the village of Gheluvelt. Lying on a forward spur of the low ridge that covers the town of Ypres, Gheluvelt was the last point retained in British hands from which the enemy’s line could be dominated.

The Honour was awarded to the 4th Hussars.


Now began the long, flanking march by the British Army which was destined to end at Ypres. The 4th Hussars left Braine on the 30th September, and marched north, moving in the evenings, by the following route:-Cuiryhousse, Tigny, Oigny, Bethisy St.Martin, Tricot, Domart, Fremont, Montigny, Monchy to Berguette, which was reached on the 10th October.

The first news of the enemy was obtained on the 10th of October when we were informed that French cavalry had been in action about the Foret de Nieppe. Our march on that day was therefore a “war” march, with the 4th Hussars as advanced guard, with orders to take over the crossings of the Lys Canal from the French. The regiment went into billets in Berguette, as they were ordered to relieve the French the following day.

On the morning of the 11th, the 4th Hussars took over the bridges from the 30th (French) Dragoons and put them in a state of defence. At 1pm ‘B’ Squadron was sent to St. Venant, to reconnoitre the Foret de Nieppe and east of it. They saw only one or two patrols near Vieux Berquin, but the inhabitants said there was German cavalry about. At 5.30 pm the regiment assembled at Isbergues and marched to Steenbecque, billeting there with an outpost line along the railway to the east. Our ‘B’ Echelon did not reach Isbergues till dark.

The brigade marched at 6.15 am on the 12th of October in a very thick fog, the 4th Hussars in the rear. Slow progress was made, but the 16th Lancers took Borre and reconnoitred the Mont des Cats. At 10 am the fog lifted and the 4th Hussars took on advanced guard to Caestre, which place was evacuated by German cavalry as we came up. Two troops of ‘C’ Squadron, under Captain Gatacre, were now detached to act as escort to the R.H.A. battery on Hill 55.

At 1.30 pm the 4th Hussars was ordered to advance through FIetre and reconnoitre Meteren, the remainder of the brigade being directed on the Mont des Cats. Fletre had just been evacuated, but on advancing towards Meteren our patrols were soon fired on, while artillery also opened fire on the southern edge of Flene from somewhere east of Le Coq de Paille. Captain Hunt, with the remaining two troops of ‘C’ Squadron, seized the farms on a ridge half a mile east of Fleue.

The farms meanwhile were held by Captain Hunt, with patrols out, while some sniping went on. He was withdrawn at dark, at which hour the ridge west of Meteren and Meteren itself was still held, apparently by infantry, who stopped our patrols from advancing. Outposts were put out round Fietre that night with barricades on all roads. The situation was then – 5th and 16th Lancers on Mont des Cats; Lieutenant Falkner and one troop at Le Coq de Paille; our infantry online Borre to Strazeele; 1st Cavalry Brigade about Merris and Vieux Berquin.

During the subsequent attack and capture of the hill by the 5th and 16th Lancers the two troops of the 4th Hussars, under Lieutenant Cripps, rendered valuable assistance from their position halfway up the hill, killing many of the enemy. Lieutenant Cripps and some seven or eight men eventually entered the monastery with the 16th.

At dawn on the 18th, a German patrol rode right into Lieutenant Fallmer’s troop at Le Coq de Paille. The wounded and captured one, belonging to the 8th Jaegers. At 7 am the farms occupied by Captain Hunt on the previous day were reoccupied by him. Meanwhile, patrols had gone out at dawn to reconnoitre Meteren and found it occupied. They remained in observation.

At 10.15 a.m. the brigade advanced from Nooteboom on our left, and advanced east until the 5th Lancers was held up on Hill 68 At 11.45 am the 4th Hussars advanced and joined hands with the 5th Lancers on Hill 68. Here they halted until the rear squadron (‘C’) came up. The enemy was found to be holding some farms and woods southeast of Point 68. The 5th Lancers were attacking these, our ‘B’ Squadron, under Captain Stokes, co-operating. They made some ground and this brought the brigade in close contact with the 1st Cavalry Brigade, so much so that ‘B’ Squadron was cut off from the regiment by the Bays. They were withdrawn back to the regiment and just after they had passed the Bays, at about 3.30 pm the enemy delivered a counter-attack with a battalion against the left of the Bays and the 4th Hussars.

The Bays and ‘B’ Squadron, 4th Hussars, were driven in somewhat, but the enemy’s advance was then checked, and on some of our infantry coming up we advanced at about 5 pm against a large farm held by the enemy. The latter, however, did not stay to fight. During the German counter-attack, Lieutenant Lonsdale was mortally wounded.

At 7 a.m. on the 14th Lieutenant Greville set out, and as a matter of fact reached Ypres without encountering any enemy, meeting some of the 7th Cavalry Brigade on the way. The remainder of the regiment marched at 11 am as advanced guard via Boeschepe and Reninghelst to La Clytte where we met the Royals. We then turned southeast over the saddle of Kemmel Hill to Neuve Eglise, seeing only small patrols of the enemy, retreating at the gallop.

At 7.15 on the morning of the 15th the brigade assembled at the crossroads one and a half miles north-west of Messines, and advanced through Messines, the 16th Lancers doing advanced guard, who found Warneton Pont Rouge and Frelinghien all held by the enemy. At 1 pm there was a good deal of shooting to the west of Wanteton, and the 4th Hussars were sent forward to clear up the situation and to support the 16th Lancers.

‘C’ Squadron reached the 9th kilometre stone at Garde Dien. From there, an attack was organised on the northeast comer of Warneton, and a farm, seized at the level crossing near the town. We were then ordered to withdraw and entrench a line through Gapaard and round the base of the Messines Ridge.

At 6 am on the 16th a dismounted patrol was sent out by ‘A’ Squadron into Warneton. They had two men killed at the barricade at the entrance to the town, the enemy firing from houses. The other squadrons also sent out patrols which drew fire from the town.

At about 10 am we were ordered to advance on the north-east outskirts of Warneton and seize them, and to send a squadron to Bas Warneton to reconnoitre it, and, if possible, to occupy and hold it. ‘A’ Squadron, under Captain Pragnell was detailed for this duty and moved off at 10.30 am. By 12.15 they were holding the railway crossing and farm on the Bas Warneton road, and patrols sent into the village were fired on, but by 1.30 pm they occupied Bas Warneton and established the machine guns there also.

They could see the enemy busy digging trenches beyond the canal. and they appeared to have constructed four lines of trenches some hundred yards apart. The diggers were harassed with machine-gun fire at about 1,400 yards’ range.

Sergeant Scotcher’s troop of ‘C’ Squadron had meanwhile been sent dismounted down the main road into Wameton, and established themselves, in the face of slight sniping, in the outlying houses of that village.

This was the situation at 3.30 pm when the brigade was ordered to seize the portion of Wameton lying north of the river. The 4th Hussars were directed round by the north-east, 5th Lancers down the main road from the north, 16th Lancers from the west. All regiments were to meet in the Place. The object in view was not stated and was somewhat obscure.

‘A’ Squadron was ordered to hold on to Bas Warneton and the farm at the railway crossing. ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons, with Headquarters, advanced dismounted down the road from the north-east corner of Warneton, and got without opposition to the main Warneton-Gapaard road. They also seized the station there. All the houses were opened en route and hurriedly searched. There were some scattered shots from all directions, apparently coming from houses; and when ‘C’ Squadron advanced into the Place, they found the church and convent apparently strongly held, the enemy firing through shutters at close range, wounding two men.

The 5th and 16th Lancers did not join hands with us till about 6 pm when it was growing dark. By this time the enemy appeared to spring up from their places of concealment amongst the houses, and firing grew quite brisk. The enemy was apparently firing straight down the street from across the bridge, and bullets were striking sparks from the pave and walls as they came skipping along. The enemy also fired a house in the Place, which lit the town up with a lurid glare.

It was rather an anti-climax after all this display to be ordered to retire from the town and Bas Warneton at 9 pm to Gapaard and Garde Dieu. This we did without any difficulty or casualties and billeted in the most matter-of-fact way in the last-named villages.

At 12 noon, on the 17th, the regiment handed over to the 3rd Hussars, who were at once attacked, but not very seriously, and we went back to Wulverghem into billets, where the night was much disturbed.

The 18th was spent resting. squadrons being reorganised into three troops owing to the shortage of men. That night intimation was received that the 7th Division would advance on Menin the next day, the 5th Cavalry Brigade protecting their right flank, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to take over the position vacated by the 5th.

At 7 am on the 19th the regiment marched via Wytschaete to Hollebeke, and after hanging about there all day, went into billets. ‘B’ Squadron found the outposts-two troops near the lock, one troop just west of canal on the Zandvoorde road, one troop south of canal on the Ypres road.

On the morning of the 20th, the regiment was ordered to entrench a line running through Hollebeke employing a good many civilians to help us and using civilian tools. The regiment was disposed-‘B’ Squadron astride the canal and railway just south of the Zandvoorde road. ‘C’ Squadron round the southeast outskirts of Hollebeke and ‘A’ Squadron round the southwest outskirts. At 1 pm. we were ordered to entrench the chateau east of the canal on the Zandvoorde road, and ‘A’ Squadron was sent there.

At 1.45 pm, in consequence of the retirement of the 5th Cavalry Brigade to Oostlaveme, the regiment was ordered to cover this, and squadrons were moved into the following positions: ‘B’ Squadron (two troops) to the cross-roads south-west of Zandvoorde; ‘C’ Squadron to the eastern exits of Kortewilde, connecting up with the right of the 7th Infantry Division. The remainder of ‘B’ Squadron remained in Hollebeke, ‘A’ Squadron in the chateau. Their orders were to remain out until the rear of the 5th Cavalry Brigade had passed through, retiring. Both the two troops of ‘B’ Squadron and ‘C’ Squadron were shelled at dusk, but only two men were wounded.

These dispositions left Hollebeke for the time being practically undefended, and the whole line held by the regiment was so long that a determined attack on any portion of it must have got through. At 5.30 pm most of the 5th Cavalry Brigade had passed through, but one squadron was still out, and this eventually retired without passing through us, and so it was not until 9.30 pm that we heard they were all clear. At that hour ‘C’ Squadron was ordered to leave one troop dismounted watching Kortewilde, to keep touch with the 5th Lancers, the remainder returning to Hollebeke, as did Headquarters.

Orders were issued for the following readjustments to take place at 5 am the next day: ‘B’ Squadron (less one troop) to the chateau, there recall the Zandvoorde troop; ‘A’ Squadron from the chateau to the west end of Hollebeke; ‘C’ Squadron. centre of Hollebeke, recalling the Kortewilde troop; one machine gun to the chateau, one to Hollebeke. At 11.30 pm, however, the ‘C’ Squadron troop from Kortewilde. under Lieutenant Cripps, having entirely failed to find the 5th Lancers, came in, and was kept in Hollebeke.

On the 21st all were expecting an enemy attack at any moment, while our situation was far from satisfactory, as there were apparently no troops between Hollebeke and Zandvoorde, and the position of the 5th Lancers was uncertain. As soon as it got light the situation began to clear up, and at 9.30 am the 5th Lancers were astride the canal to our front at the lock and windmill. Our left was still in the air, so ‘A’ Squadron, under Captain Pragnell, was ordered to Klein Zillebeke to fill the gap.

The first shells struck the Cure’s house, just evacuated by Headquarters. The firing increased, but was directed almost entirely against buildings in the higher portion of the village, and not at all against the trenches in front of it where our men lay. The 5th Lancers now withdrew from our front, and German infantry began to advance from Kortewilde, some crossing the canal and advancing along the west bank. while the cavalry was seen farther to the east. There was probably a whole brigade of German infantry advancing along both sides of the canal by 11 am, and ‘B’ Squadron and one machine gun. and especially one advanced troop, under Captain Brooke, had some fair targets, though the country was rather blind.

This appeared to steady the German advance, and we were by 12.30 pm feeling pretty comfortable and felt we had the situation well in hand, more especially as 100 cyclists had now filled the gap on our left when we were ordered to retire, first to the canal bend north of Hollebeke, and then towards St. Eloi. The withdrawal was gradually carried out, the enemy showing no great desire to press on in face of our fire, and by 2.30 pm we were just clear of the village.

It was now fresh counter-orders were received, to hold on to Hollebeke at all costs. The regiment immediately turned about and went forward to occupy its former positions. On reaching the village again, however, it was found that the enemy had occupied the chateau and the houses level with it, west of the canal At 8.30 pm we arranged, in along with the 10th Hussars on the east of the railway, to attack the chateau. The 10th Hussars, however, did not attack, and the Germans advanced from it instead of against our ‘B’ Squadron, covering the canal and railway crossings there, and by 4.15 pm the attack was becoming serious.

At. 6.30 pm the situation was much the same, the 10th Hussars having been told to occupy the chateau if not held by the enemy. They sent patrols down, who apparently reported it held. Meanwhile, our patrols found the canal crossing evacuated, and ‘B’ Squadron occupied it at 9 pm, sending patrols also into the chateau, which was unoccupied.

However, at 12 midnight the enemy, also finding it not held, reoccupied it, and from there made it too uncomfortable for our men at the crossing to remain there.

‘A’ Squadron had by now rejoined, and a squadron of Yeomanry held the bridge north of Hollebeke for a time, but then withdrew, and we sent a troop to hold it.

On the morning of the 22nd we were informed that the 6th Cavalry Brigade would attack the chateau and then hold it, but at 9 am our patrols found it-empty, and it was subsequently occupied by one squadron of the Royals. During the day 200 men of the Munsters came up to take over the chateau. Seventy of these were diverted to Hollebeke and came into our trenches, which were now becoming very strong. A platoon also held the crossing north of the village.

At 6 am on the 23rd the 129th Baluchis arrived and relieved the 4th Hussars and the Munsters, and we went back to our horses, sent the day before to farms south of Verbrandenmolen and the shooting-lodge on the Ypres road. We left, however. ninety men in Hollebeke as a support, and also our machine guns, under Lieutenant North.

On the 24th we received news that a general German attack was expected, and the 1st and 4th German Cavalry Corps were expected to attack the front held by our Cavalry Corps. Enemy aircraft were busy observing, and the enemy could be seen digging 1,200 yards in front of Hollebeke.

During the day we found a mounted squadron, part of a composite regiment formed to co-operate with the 8rd Cavalry Division in a projected forward movement. Nothing came of this, and they returned in the evening. German snipers worked up at night and hit some Baluchis.

On the 25th our support in Hollebeke was withdrawn, and Captain Scott arrived with some reinforcements, Captains Egerton and Gannon and 125 men, all mounted.

Our fighting strength, with reinforcements, was:-Officers, 20; men, 288, with two machine guns and horses. When the horses were away, the dismounted men were reduced. to 230, and this was our strength when the fighting really began on the 30th.

That night we were ordered to be ready at 1 pm to relieve the Baluchis with one squadron, to release them for the attack, and to move east of railway with remainder, ready to attack. Machine guns to remain in a position to cover Baluchis.

At 1 pm on the 26th ‘C’ Squadron took over Hollebeke, and the Baluchis advanced, but made little progress. At 2 pm ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons moved east of the railway up behind the chateau, being shelled en route. The Royals in the chateau said they had orders to protect the right flank of the 3rd Cavalry Division in an attack on Kortewilde. At 8 pm ‘A’ Squadron advanced past them and reached the outskirts of Kortewilde and the lock, meeting with little opposition. It was found impossible to communicate with the Baluchis on the other side of the embankment, and it was not until that night that we found they had made very little ground but had had heavy losses.

At 3.30 pm a staff officer of the 3rd Cavalry Division warned us their guns were about to shell Kortewilde. ‘A’ Squadron was therefore withdrawn, having been entirely unsupported on either flank. Our brigade stopped this firing, and ‘A’ Squadron went forward again but found the lock held. This squadron, being still unsupported by any advance on either flank, was then withdrawn. We sent ‘B’ Squadron also into Hollebeke, ‘A’ Squadron back into billets.

At 10 pm the Baluchis returned to the line they had started from in the afternoon, and ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons also withdrew to billets.

On the morning of the 30th October, our troops in Hollebeke were relieved by the 129th Baluchis, and the regiment was ordered to report mounted to the 6th Cavalry Brigade at Klein Zillebeke. We reported there, and at 9.30 were asked by Colonel Bulkeley Johnson, commanding the composite brigade supporting the 6th Brigade, to attack in order to relieve him. Colonel Howell thereupon rode down towards the chateau. which had been reported captured by the enemy, but found this and its vicinity held by the 10th Hussars and Royals.

At this time a heavy enemy attack commenced on the Zandvoorde Ridge. Heavy fire was also directed on the chateau. From a personal reconnaissance by Colonel Howell it was seen that the main enemy attack at this time was directed against the Zandvoorde Ridge, and this they occupied about 11 am with infantry and guns.

Meanwhile, it was difficult to know under whose orders exactly we were working. Within an hour conflicting orders were received from the 2nd Cavalry Division, 3rd Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division, 6th Cavalry Brigade, and a composite brigade under Colonel Bulkeley Johnson. At 2.30 pm orders were received from the 2nd Cavalry Division that the 4th Hussars were to be under General Vaughan (3rd Cavalry Brigade) alone, and were to report to him. Already in accordance with the former message from 3rd Cavalry Brigade, the regiment had been withdrawn from east of the canal, and was now disposed of: ‘A’ Squadron about broken bridge, ‘B’ Squadron railway to road crossing over the canal, ‘C’ Squadron holding the canal line between the two. The horses were sent into the woods some mile and a half in the rear.

By 2 pm we were safely installed in the trenches previously dug. and also previously allotted to squadrons and well reconnoitred by them; so that our line was now well organised, and we knew where we were for the first time during this very confused and busy day.

No sooner were we in the trenches than a very heavy shell fire was directed on the left of this line. This line was a very strong one naturally. On the left between the railway and the road over canal the trenches ran along low ground in a fence; behind them, a wooded hill ran up fairly steeply and proved an irresistible attraction to the enemy gunners on this and the next day. Just to the right of the road, facing the enemy, rose a steep embankment, north of the canal, being the soil dug from the canal. This was covered with ten-year-old fir-trees.

At the point where this began were the two machine guns and a troop of ‘C’ Squadron. Their trenches were rather too obvious and caught it badly the next day. The remainder of ‘C’ Squadron was in narrow slits on top of the embankment and were never spotted by the enemy, who fired either over or short into the canal.

On their right was a short gap, then came ‘A’ Squadron in small narrow trenches covering the broken bridge and the woods of the white chateau. The latter was scarcely shelled at all.

All the morning and up to 2 pm Lieutenant North, with the machine guns, had been in Hollebeke. Messengers were sent to recall him then, and he came in about 2.30 pm. He had been in action all the morning and had stayed in Hollebeke an hour and a half after all other troops had left. With his two guns he had held up probably the best part of an enemy brigade, and when he got the order to retire the enemy were within 100 yards of him, and he got the most wonderful targets from 600 yards downwards, and must have done tremendous execution. He got his guns away in a wheelbarrow, and had only one man wounded, astonishing though it appears.

By 4 pm, though shelling was very intense and the Germans had brought up field guns into Hollebeke and were firing at 700 yards’ range, the situation seemed much more comfortable, for everyone concerned apparently realised that at midday the canal had been unoccupied for a distance of about a mile, and began to send supports. Thus, the 3rd Cavalry Division said they were supporting us, and sent us a squadron of Life Guards.

At 4 pm a message came from over the railway from Colonel Smith, commanding the Grenadier Guards, to say an attack seemed to be developing on the right. and asking us to hold the bridge with the French, so they were presumably somewhere about also, though we did not see them until the next day. This was the first intimation we got that the Guards were on our left, as we believed the 10th Hussars and Royals to be still there.

Just before dark German infantry began to advance from Hollebeke, especially along the west side of the canal, which was covered with bushes. They were well sprinkled with bullets and did not press home any attack this night. At 6.3pm we blew up the bridge over the canal, through the girders of the foundation still held. Just after this, we received orders not to destroy the bridge, as an attack was planned for French troops to carry out the next morning.

At dawn on the 31st, the shelling started and grew heavier. This continued all day, and at times was very intense, but the damage was comparatively slight, the casualties on the 30th and 31st amounting to two officers killed, five men killed, and 21 wounded. As soon as it was light on the 31st we could see by scrapes in the ground that the enemy’s advanced scouts had been right up to the canal on the south bank during the night. Many of them were visible in the village, moving to the railway and woods round the white chateau. ‘A’ Squadron heavily sniped but more than held their own at this game, and claimed to have hit a good many Germans.

At 10 am the enemy shell fire became very intense, and they had by now got their field guns again firing from Hollebeke. ‘A’ Squadron found it difficult all day to get messages through owing to heavy fire and had several men hit while carrying dispatches; while the clearance of wounded could not be effected till dark, the rear of our position being so swept by shell fire. About 11 am the French on the east of the railway began to advance, but never really got beyond our trench line, being stopped by shell fire; they, however, remained close up.

At 8.30 pm, after more intense shell fire, the enemy advanced in several waves from Hollebeke. They were met with rapid-fire from ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons, the machine guns having been knocked out during the morning, and his attack was brought to a standstill some 800 yards to our front. His losses must have been heavy, and he made no further infantry attacks this day.

After dark, we were ordered to hand over to the French and Life Guards and to go to St.Eloi to billet, but to leave ‘A’ Squadron where they were until the next morning. We marched to St. Eloi, but on going there to billet found the village under heavy infantry fire from medium range, and therefore moved to Voormezeele and bivouacked there, the houses being occupied already by other troops.

At 6 am on the 1st of November the regiment marched to Kemmel, while heavy fighting seemed to be going on between Wytschaete and Messines. At about 7.30 am ‘A’ Squadron rejoined, and we were employed in supporting our troops which were scattered (in a rather disorganised state owing to the fierce battle for Messines the night before) between Kemmel and Messines.

The regiment remained all day on the slopes east of Kemmel, putting a few posts out to fill gaps in the line to our front. At dusk, we were ordered to form an outpost line running through Hill 75. This was not, however, the British front line, which was some half-mile in front of us, composed of other brigades of cavalry, some native troops, and linking up with the French about Wytschaete. At 12 midnight, however, the French took over our line. The regiment, therefore, went into adjacent farms for the night.

At 5 am on the 2nd the regiment was withdrawn to Kemmel, while the Germans, under heavy artillery fire from Messines, captured part of Wytschaete from the French. Meanwhile, we dug a secondary line near Kemmel up to 2 pm, when the 2nd Cavalry Division concentrated at Locre, there being some idea of an attack on Messines. This was abandoned at dusk, and we went into billets at Berthen.

In the morning of the 3rd, the brigade moved to the Croix de Poperinghe to support the 1st Cavalry Brigade, holding trenches east of Wulverghem. At 2 pm we moved to Dranoutre. At dusk, we were ordered to leave our hones and take over the above trenches, dismounted. In the dark, therefore, we took over a thin and very exposed line of trenches, already obviously thoroughly registered by enemy guns.

At 11 am on the 4th a French dismounted cavalry corps, under General Conneau, attacked through us, and brought heavy fire on our trenches. We, therefore, evacuated our centre front line and brought ‘C’ Squadron back. This move was badly carried out, was spotted by the enemy, and they were shelled again.

At 5.30 am on the 5th the Greys and 20th Hussars withdrew. At 10 am heavy shell fire came down all along the front, and continued until 12 noon, when the Germans advanced from Messines in dense columns and captured Hill 75 from the French, in spite of great efforts on the part of officers of the 16th Lancers to rally them.

When the hill went we occupied our front line again, experiencing more losses from shell fire, which continued, with heavy rifle fire, till dark. At this hour the 5th Dragoon Guards relieved us with some difficulty, owing to the narrowness of the trenches and the heavy rifle fire. These two days cost us thirty-seven casualties, amongst the wounded being Captain Mason, 14th Hussars. They were two very unpleasant days, as it was a case of sitting in very obvious trenches being shelled, without a chance of much retaliation. We then went to Berthen to billet there.

From the 6th to the 12th November the regiment rested in Berthen but was turned out more than once owing to critical situations arising on the front. At 11.20 am on the 12th we were ordered to Neuve Eglise to take over some trenches. On arrival there, it was found impossible to take over by day, while our assistance did not appear to be required at all. We, therefore, returned to billets.

At 6.30 a.m. on the 13th, we marched to Dranoutre, where the horses were left, and at 8.30 pm we went to Wulverghem, dismounted, taking over the same trenches as on 5th November. The weather had now turned very cold and wet, and we had a good deal of sickness, ” trench foot” making its first appearance.

On the 15th work continued on the line, but the weather was very cold and combined with sniping made digging difficult. At dark, the Oxford Yeomanry relieved us and we marched along an almost impossible road to billets about Nooteboom.

From the 16th to the 18th we remained in billets.

On the 19th we started a march at 11 am, to relieve the 1st Cavalry Division on the Ypres-Meunn road east of Hooge, in snow and sleet, marched via Dickebusch and Ypres, and took over from the 9th Lancers after dark.

The next morning, when it grew light, some shelling commenced, and shortly after the trench mortar began. By 9 am the stable was much damaged and had to be evacuated, while the trench from the stable to the chateau was obliterated.

When night fell the enemy occupied the stable, and an order was received at 7 pm that, if held, it was to be attacked, and then destroyed by the Royal Engineers. For this purpose, we had some hundred men of the K.O.Y.L.I. to help. They had been in action continuously since the commencement of the battle of Ypres, and some of their men were in a very bad state owing to the continuous strain.

On the way down the Ypres road, the regiment was shelled and Captain Brooke wounded. The total casualties for the twenty-four hours were one officer killed and one officer and eight other ranks wounded; while, largely as a result of cold and exposure, sixty-four men were admitted to hospital sick before the end of the year. On reaching the horses at Brielen, after a walk through burning Ypres, we found the roads a sheet of ice and therefore halted till the morning.

This ended the regiment’s part in the battle of Ypres, and though the casualties had been considerable, the results more than justified them. For instance, at the canal turn north of Hollebeke, had the enemy forced his way through the regiment, he would have got Klein Zillebeke and Hill 60, and this might well have led to the evacuation of the Ypres Salient and Ypres itself.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. The Western Front 1914-18 timeline