Gainsborough News 2nd July 1915

THRILLING ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF HOOGE

WHERE A MORTON HERO FELL

Mr. Percival Phillips, who is at the British Headquarters in the Field, gives a thrilling account in the “Express” of the recent battle of Hooge. The night before the battle, as our readers will see in our weekly edition of to-day’s date, Private Harry Lawson, wrote his mother at Morton, “We have been ordered to stick it and break through at any cost.” He lost his life in a valiant charge in the battle. But as a comrade wrote the mother “The enemy fled for their lives,” and this is born out by Mr. Phillips, who writes:-

“The battle of Hooge on Wednesday and Thursday last, which straightened out line and captured a 1,000-yard section of heavily fortified German trench, involved twenty-four hours of a bitter determined fighting as any yet experienced along the British front.

It was marked by many gallant deeds. The losses were not light, but the enemy’s losses were far greater, and the British battalions, Regulars and Territorials, which endured a sustained, devastating fire of machine guns and artillery without faltering, gained for themselves undying fame.

The Ypres salient has been constantly squeezed and altered, sagging forward and back – a bit taken out here and a bit added there – so that certain portions of our line have at times been unduly exposed to the enemy’s bomb and trench mortar-warfare. Wednesdays attack straightened an uncomfortable angle west of the ruined chateau of Hooge, and south of the Menin railway, by driving the Germans further east and north-east towards Bellewarde village and lake.

It was prefaced by a “plastering” artillery preparation which lasted some two hours. The morning was clear and cool – ideal fighting weather. The enemy, well aware of the impending assault, brought up infantry reinforcements and sought to minimise the expected shock by a counter-bombardment intended to throw the usual “barrage” of fire in front of their trenches.

The attack was pressed home about four o’clock. Our battalions forming a first line swept across the open ground and through the fragments of torn entanglements into the enemy’s position. They poured over the parapets, bayoneting and bombing their way, and began driving panic-stricken parties of Bavarians up the communication trenches beyond the second line.

As in other recent attacks, the bombing parties were of great importance. Expert throwers of these missiles advanced in small groups, hurling explosives into dug-outs and other refuges where isolated machine gun detachments sought shelter.

The enemy followed their usual tactics of deluging their lost trenches with high explosive, in the hope of blowing out the invaders, with intervals intended to allow for infantry counter-attacks. Our men stuck grimly to the captured positions, and, although they were forced to fall back from the second line trenches they held to the first line, repelling one assault after another.

Throughout Wednesday and Wednesday night the conflict raged fiercely. It was apparent that the German staff had ordered the re-establishment of their old line, whatever the cost, and heavy sacrifices were made to this end, but without success.”

In conclusion, Mr Phillips says “It added many more names to the roll of British heroes. And after reading the “battle eve” letter of Private Lawson to his mother, can we do other than regard him as amongst the noblest?”

Gainsborough News 2nd July 1915 contributed by Stephen Knox