Battle Overview

16th June 1915

At the close of the Battles of Ypres, the German trenches between the Menin Road and the Ypres-Roulers railway formed a salient.

Behind their front lines lay the Bellewaarde Ridge and the lake, the former giving the enemy good observation over our lines. Hooge, at the southern point of this salient, lay battered and ruined between the opposing lines; while just south of the Ypres-Roulers railway the eastern edges of Railway Wood were held by the enemy, and the western edges by British troops of the 3rd Division. The British line from opposite Hooge ran along just south of the Menin Road to just east of Birr X Road, then turned sharply  northwards skirting the eastern edges of the Cambridge Road to the angle formed by the latter and the railway, where, for some 300 yards, it followed the latter eastwards, turning again sharply north-west.

Early in June it was decided to attack the salient, and, if possible, gain possession of the ridge; the attack was to be carried out by the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division. Though they make interesting reading, it is impossible to give full details of the operations, orders, and indeed, from a regimental point of view, such matters as particulars concerning the attacking troops and objectives allotted to them are sufficient to place the reader au fait with the situation before the attack began. One fact, however, is clearly demonstrated in these orders, that, at this period there was a shortage of bombs, for the utility of the hand-grenade in trench fighting was only just being recognised.

There were three phases in the attack on Bellewaarde. In the first the objective was the eastern edge of a narrow strip of wood (Y.16 and Y.15), and the German front-line trenches as far as the north-east corner of Railway Wood; in the second the objective was the line of the road from the house 100 yards south of Y.17, through Y.17 to Bellewaarde Farm, thence through.14 and Y.11 to Y.7; the objective in the third phase was the south-western corner of Bellewaarde Lake, Y.18 - Y.12 - Y.7.

The attacking troops for the first phase were (from right to left) the 4th Royal Fusiliers, 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 5th Fusiliers. As soon as the German front was taken the Royal Fusiliers were to bomb down the trench from Y.16 to Y.17, while the Royal Scots Fusiliers, in conjunction with the 5th Fusiliers, were to seize the hostile trench lying between Y.13 and Y.15 and the second objective, the 5th Fusiliers pushing their bombing parties on towards Y.7. (click here for map)

As soon as the first objective had been gained the guns were to bombard the second objective, i.e., from the house 100 yards south of Y.17 to Y.11; about the centre of this line lay Bellewaarde Farm. The 1st Lincolns and Liverpool Scottish (1/10th King’s Regiment), who during the first phase, were to move up to the front line vacated by the troops of the first phase, and were to capture the third objective. In later years this was known as “leap-frogg ing.”

The 7th Brigade was to support the 9th, and the 8th was in reserve. On the right of the 3rd Division troops of the 7th Division were to support the 9th Brigade by seizing the German trenches from Y.20 to Y.16, and by covering rifle and machine-gun fire from the Menin Road. On the left the 6th Division was to assist the 3rd by opening covering fire with rifles and machine guns.

From 2.50 a.m. with three pauses at 3.10 a.m., 3.40 a.m. and 4 a.m., until 4.15 a.m., the Divisional Artillery was to bombard the enemy trenches. At 4.15 a.m. the infantry were to advance to the assault. The attack was to take place on 16th June.

Extract from the book ‘History of the King's Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-1919' by E Wyrall

By kind permission of  Naval & Military Press Ltd