Passchendaele

#1
I watched with interest a programme on Channel 5, which amongst other things featured two descendants of soldiers from the Newfoundland Regiment, visiting pretty much the exact spot where their Great Uncles went over the top.

I was wondering if i'd be able to do the same thing. My Great Uncle John was killed on the 10th of October 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres, as a member of 1st Battalion the East Surrey Regiment. I suppose a bit of cross referencing with a battalion diary, would easily place him close to the point where he died.

Do the tour guides do Regiment specific tours? If so, Does it cost a lot? I'd quite like to take my two eldest lads next year, around the 90th anniversary.
 
#2
Paste this into Google - many dozens specific to Passchendale.
battlefield tours passchendaeleI would imagine that a Regt specific deal would be tailored for just you as they cover a heck of a lot in the standard tours so therefore expensive. I recommend such a tour though - gives real understanding when you get into the positions the Tommies set out from.
 
#3
If they have survived, the Battalion War Diaries are held in the Public Record Office at Kew - in the War Office archives.

You can access them but you either need the time or a researcher who knows where to look. It is unlikely that you will find much else than a cold one-liner that says something like "1 SNCO and 10 ORs killed by artillery fire in Trench x". However, you never know until you go looking and you already know enough to get you into the right area in the archives. Tying the diary and the death together might be difficult because he might have been away from the Bn when he was killed.

Read the rules of access to the PRO on their website and go there on a Thursday(?) because they stay open until later - and you might need the time!

Have you tried the Prince Consort Libray in Aldershot for information on the battle? Their range of military history books is quite outstanding.

Litotes
 
#5
Armed with Maj & Mrs Holt's Guide to Ypres (or similar) and Google, it's fairly easy to sort your own tour out.

The Ypres Salient is such a small place, and so fought over, most of the things to see are within a fairly short distance.

We went a while ago, armed with a book written in the 20s by some folk from our ancestral unit who'd fought there. Strange feeling to be standing on the same bit of ground they were ......

Also worth visiting in the area are the Menin Gate (esp at 20:00 {better check that time though} when they play the last Post), Tyne Cot Cemetery and, if you have a day spare Waterloo is only about an hour or so away.

There is an HMSO publication in their Battlefront series that deals with 3rd Ypres which is also very good. It has some maps, air photos, reproductions of Op orders, fireplans, attestation docs etc, which I'm fairly sure are based on the Canadians.

Available here: Amazon search link




Edited to add link
 
#6
The museum in the Wool Market in Ypres is excellent, with AV displays in English. Went at Easter and couldn't believe we'd been in there three hours. Sanctuary Wood Museum also well worth the visit, but take your wellies if it's wet.
 

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#7
I think they would possibly have been part of 5th Division at that stage

Given the date it may well have been that he was killed in the Battle of Poelcapelle which began on the previous day as part of the 6th phase of the Third battle of Ypres where 5th Division were part of 10 Corps, 2nd Army alongside I think the Anzacs and 5th Army.

You should be able to research the battle on t'interweb or get in touch with PWRR Regimental HQ or their museum in Guildford
 
#8
Cheers for all the info.

I've got the Major and Mrs Holt guide to Gallipoli, so I might take a punt on trying to do it myself with the guide and the battalion diary.

Thanks again.
 
#10
Litotes said:
If they have survived, the Battalion War Diaries are held in the Public Record Office at Kew - in the War Office archives.
My grandfather was killed at Passchendaele on 20 September 1917. I did a little research at Kew, with no real result as far as he was concerned, other than that it was obviously a bad day for his battalion - they were shelled at the FUP, lost direction in the mist, got mixed up with another unit and ended the day with nothing but casualties to show for it.

However, I was quite staggered to have put into my hands the originals of many simple but historic battalion documents, including the officers' and NCOs' after battle reports. The one that sticks in my mind was that of a Lance-Sergeant describing the action in which he won the VC. I cannot do justice to the sense of immediacy created by this little bundle of coarse notepaper held together with a rusty staple.

The Kew system is a bit complex, but if you can handle it, it is well worth a visit.
 
#11
Vasco said:
...My grandfather was killed at Passchendaele on 20 September 1917. I did a little research at Kew, with no real result as far as he was concerned, other than that it was obviously a bad day for his battalion - they were shelled at the FUP, lost direction in the mist, got mixed up with another unit and ended the day with nothing but casualties to show for it.

However, I was quite staggered to have put into my hands the originals of many simple but historic battalion documents, including the officers' and NCOs' after battle reports. The one that sticks in my mind was that of a Lance-Sergeant describing the action in which he won the VC. I cannot do justice to the sense of immediacy created by this little bundle of coarse notepaper held together with a rusty staple.

The Kew system is a bit complex, but if you can handle it, it is well worth a visit.
And that is why I recommended that our friend tries at Kew. I have not had the same luck as you (lucky s*d!) but just the knowledge that your grandfather died on "a bad day for the battalion" is immeasurably better, IMHO, than finding out that he was run over by a drunken Frenchman outside the local bordello some 50 miles behind GHQ!

Litotes
 
#12
The Zonneebeke Museum, is in many ways even better than "In Flanders Fields" for Passcendaele. "Flanders Fields" is an excellent musuem but its a peace musuem" with a focus on how the Great War is remembered, rather than the detail of what happened when. It has the "Atmospheric smoke filled room with weird noises and the crys of "Why" etc.

Zonnebeke is more of a military musuem, with detailed information about what happened at different phases of the battle. It has exhibits on boys stuff such as how were the different types of German bunkers made, the different tactics etc. The base of the musuem is a reconstruction of the dugouts that were under the Church and are full of dioramas. The people who run the musuem are first class and very active battlefield Archeologists. The musuem can obtain access to some of the hbunkers that have recently been excavated.

There are, I think some local politics involved. Its run by a different local authority - Passendaele, which is in a different local authority to Ypres. This authority also include Geluveldt and Polygon Wood. They have a tame re-enactment group who include Gheluveldt residents who dress as 2nd Worcesters. The ones I have met are Belgian soldiers and actually look the part , rather than overweight civilians in uniform

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/westfront/ypsalient/museums/streekmus.htm
 
#13
The area where the Newfoundlanders fought is worth a visit, the trenches haven't been messed around with so you get to see what's left of the original trenches and shell holes, nice monument too. Sanctuary wood is great, lot's of relics and weapons in museum and the preserved trenches give an insight into life in the trenches (very muddy and I'm sure someone said they had seen a rat!) without the shelling, snipers, boredom, noise etc etc.
 
#14
The best advice I can give you is do as much research as you are able to cram in before your trip. Regimental diaries and personal letters are first class sources of info. I went to Ypres last year under my own steam, drove to and camped in France, just by the Belgian border. There is a good campsite a stones throw from the Menin Gate.

The more detail you can find out, the more rewarding your trip will be.
 
#15
1 East Surreys were part of 5th Div, X Corps. The Battle of Poelcapple was fought on the 9th of October, following the capture of Broetseinde.
 
#16
They Called it Passchendale by Lynn McDonald is a very good book. She produced a set covering each year of the Great War:

1914
(Cannot remember her book for 1915)
Somme
The Called it Passchendale
To the Last Man

All of them are on my book case at home along with these two by her:

The Roses of No Man's Land (about the nurses)
1914-18 Voices and Immages of the Great War.

If you want I can provide full details of them.
 
#17
Inf/MP said:
They Called it Passchendale by Lynn McDonald is a very good book. She produced a set covering each year of the Great War:

1914
(Cannot remember her book for 1915)
Somme
The Called it Passchendale
To the Last Man

All of them are on my book case at home along with these two by her:

The Roses of No Man's Land (about the nurses)
1914-18 Voices and Immages of the Great War.

If you want I can provide full details of them.
It was called 1915 - end of innocence
 
#18
Convoy Cock

The book you want for researching which unit did what on what day is called "Passchendaele: The Day-By-Day Account" by Chris McCarthy

This does what it says on the tin and lists what happened on each day.

If you want to dig deeper you don't have to visit Kew.

The war diary for October 1917 for the 1st Battalion the East Surrey's is available online and can be downloaded for £3.50.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/...asp?queryType=1&resultcount=1&Edoc_Id=6789669

Do you know when your great uncle John joined the Battalion? They are famous and won two VCs at Hill 60 in 1915. One of these was Edward Dywer, killed at the Somme 3 Sep 1916. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9788756 He made at least two recordings, one about life on the march and the second about life in the trenches. His voice might havce been familiar to your relative and you can hear it here. http://www.firstworldwar.com/audio/Sergeant E Dwyer VC - With Our Boys At The Front.mp3.
 
#19
Pteranadon said:
The war diary for October 1917 for the 1st Battalion the East Surrey's is available online and can be downloaded for £3.50.
Any tips for searching for the war diaries? I was looking for 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derbys) (Mar 21/23 1918) and whatever I tried to search I got thousands of results (guess I need to wade through them ??)

thanks
 
#20
polar said:
Pteranadon said:
The war diary for October 1917 for the 1st Battalion the East Surrey's is available online and can be downloaded for £3.50.
Any tips for searching for the war diaries? I was looking for 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derbys) (Mar 21/23 1918) and whatever I tried to search I got thousands of results (guess I need to wade through them ??)

thanks
I used 2 sherwood foresters Notts Derby march 1918

and it threw up 8077 records under military and defence. The top of the list are all war diaries but starting with 2/5th

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/...e=&queryType=1&sortSpec=Score+desc&pagetitle=

I think you just have to scroll through the pages until you find the battalion you are looking for.

You can refine the search by adding 71st Brigade and 6th division and without wither "sherwood foresters" or "notts & Derby" to see if it narrows down to the 2nd Regular Bn quicker than trawling through the list.
 

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