Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Gerard Prideaux SELBY (of Teynham)
b. 30th April 1891;
d. 26th September 1916. Aged 25 years.
Attached to the 9th (Service) Battalion
Remembered with Honour
Orvillers Military Memorial
Ovillers-la-Boisselle, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France
Plot 1, Row B, Grave 20
Killed in Action
Gerard was born on 30th April 1891 in Greenstreet (Teynham Parish), Kent. He was the eldest child of Prideaux George (O.B.E.) and Elizabeth Mary Alice (nee Eastty; father Rev. Joseph Henry Eastty) Selby. His father and uncle (William) were both doctors and set the pattern for Gerard in pursuing his medical career. Gerard had one sister (Joan/Jean - whose husband, Edwyn Sandys Dawes was a captain in the East Kent Yeomanry in Egypt - survived) and two brothers, both served in both World Wars:
This was a family with a strong sense of duty and would have understood Gerard's desire to apply himself at the Front rather than remaining with his training role at home.
Home Front: Red Cross Records confirm that his father acted as Medical Officer to the Glovers V.A.D. Hospital in Sittingbourne from 14th October 1914 to 31st December 1918. Initially he served without pay but by the close of war was receiving three pence per bed. He was awarded the O.B.E.
Gerard's mother also served with the Glovers V.A.D Hospital from 14th October 1914 until 31st January 1919 with the rank of "Commandant" earning the St. John Life Saving Silver Medal.
Gerard Prideaux Selby was educated at The Grange "G" (Folkestone) and Winchester College (1904-1908). In 1911, matriculated with diplomas (MRCS (England) and LRCP (London)) at New College, Oxford. He served with the Red Cross in Bulgaria during the Second Balkan War (1913), after graduation (April 1914), he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps on 29th July 1914. By December 1914 he was serving at the Front, attached to the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He suffered a thigh injury in March 1915 near Ypres. On recovery, he returned to France as part of the 33 Field Ambulance Unit, but he soon asked to transfer to to a battalion in the field - on 4th December 1915 he was attached to the 9th (Service) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. He was killed during an attack on a German stronghold, Mouquet Farm ["Mucky Farm" to the troops], near Pozieres.
His Obituary (Lancet, 28th October 1916) emphasises the importance he attached to applying his medical knowledge to military service.
GERARD PRIDEAUX SELBY, B.A., M.B., CAPTAIN, ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS.
Captain G. P. Selby, who was killed on active service on September 26th at the age of 25, was the eldest son of Dr. Prideaux Selby, of Teynham. Educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, he completed his medical studies at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, taking his M.B., Ch.B. Oxon. in 1914. At Oxford he was moving spirit in the Officers Training Corps, and later in London he joined the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps, in which he held the rank of sergeant when he passed into the Royal Army Medical Corps in July, 1914, just before war broke out. After six months' service he was promoted to captain, and he used to say that he had been private, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain all within a little more than a year. He was first employed in training Royal Army Medical Corps men at Aldershot, and then went out as regimental medical officer to the [1st Battalion] Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He was wounded in the thigh in March, 1915, and after a period as member of a medical board for examining recruits he went out again attached to a field ambulance and later to a battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers. With them he met his death while attending to the wounded in the firing line. Captain Selby, whilst keen on his medical work and possessing powers of concentration which enabled him to pass his examinations in the minimum time, was also an athlete. At Oxford he rowed as a freshman in the New College Torpids Eight , and he was a useful hockey player at back. His keenness impressed all those with whom he was brought in contact, and the organisation of his aid-post for the advance during which he lost his life was the subject of approving comment by his commanding officer.
Additional References: The Sewell Genealogy web site; RAMC in the Great War web site; Winchester College at War. The Society is particularly indebted to Winchester College for their agreement to use the portrait (below) and the detailed research notes of a member of staff from Winchester College who researched their old boys.
There are very few surviving military records for this man other than a medal card, CWG burial documents and probate records.
Soldier's Effects show three sums: £3 18s. 10d (Holt & Co); £4 6s. 0d (C.P. Base). War Gratuity: £59. A total of £67 4s. 10d. Probate records tell us that his estate went to his father - SELBY Gerard Prideaux of Brusons Teynham Kent. Captain attached 9th Lancashire Fusiliers died 26 September 1916 in France killed in action Administration (with Will) London 2nd December to Prideaux George Selby medical practitioner. Effects £227 15s. 7d.
Gerard's father applied for his son's medals on 6th December 1921 - Victory, British and 15 Star.
|Victory Medal||British Medal||
15 Star Medal
Extract from Igglepen's "Saunter Through Kent" where he describes Teynham Church:
"The church stands on higher ground and you enter the churchyard through a wooden lych-gate that bears the inscription:— "To the Glorious Dead, 1914-1919." It is worthwhile to walk around the building to see the exceptionally long and well-preserved Early English lancet windows. Other windows are of the Perpendicular period and the large one east of the chancel appears to have been restored. Its slender mullions are elegant. Stone corner buttresses support the chancel, but someone, alas! placed red-brick buttresses against the wall of the south aisle—an unforgivable thing to do. That splash of brickwork amid fine flint and stone! Then there are three little dormer windows of recent date projecting from the roof of the nave—another bit of modernity that mars the beauty of an otherwise fine old Kentish church. Near the lych-gate stands a tall consecration cross, restored on its original base in memory of Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, R.A.M.C., killed while tending wounded at the capture of Thiepval in 1916. The gallant young officer was only twenty-five years of age and the son of Dr. and Mrs. Selby. Close to the west door are two ancient stone tombs, although the stonework of one has been encased with brick. One bears the date 1617 and the name Pamflett, and at the end is carved a cross."
"MEMORIAL AT TEYNHAM. THE ANCIENT CHURCHYARD CROSS. Not much is left of the ancient churchyard cross at Teynham, which Dr. Prideaux Selby is have restored in memory of his son, Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, R.A.M.C., who was killed at the capture of Thiepval. All that remains of the original is the base, which is partly of stone and partly of brick.
It is not known when the cross, or, more probably, the crucifix, was destroyed; tradition assigns its removal to the times of Cromwell, but then it generally does! Within the memory of man a comparatively modern sundial stood upon the base, but that too has disappeared.
The Archbishop once had a palace near the church, and held ordinations in the north transept (still called the Archbishop's Chapel) but that also has gone and left no trace.
The restored cross will be dedicated at 8 p.m. on Thursday next, November 1st (All Saint's Day) by Bishop Walsh, Archdeacon of Canterbury.
In the evening, at 6 o'clock, there will be a commemoration service at St. Andrews (Greenstreet) at which the names of Teynham men who have died on service will be read, and thanksgiving offered for the sacrifice."
The next month, 17th November, a full account was given of the dedication.
THE LATE CAPT. GERARD PRIDEAUX SELBY. R.A.M.C. - MEMORIAL DEDICATION AT TEYNHAM. At Teynham, on Thursday afternoon, Bishop Walsh, Archbishop of Canterbury, dedicated the restored Churchyard Cross, which restoration Dr. Prideaux Selby has had carried out in memory of his lamented son, the late Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, R.A.M.C., who was killed in France a little more than a year ago.
The restoration of historic objects appeals to all who love their country and hamlet, and it was a happy thought which suggested to Dr. Selby this interesting form of memorial. The parishioners of Teynham today and of future years will thus have before them, on entering the old Churchyard, that symbol with which those of bygone centuries were familiar.
The memorial, too, is a most fitting one, for the cross - by the association that now attaches to it, will bring to the vision that other cross - one of a vast number of such - which, away across the Channel, marks the grave of Gerard Selby - a gallant officer, to whom death came while seeking to relieve the sufferings of others.
As we mentioned last week, very little of the original cross remains, only the base in fact. upon this base (which is properly left in the condition which Time has wrought) has been erected a beautiful octagonal column, the cross chosen for the head of it being, appropriately, that of St. John of Jerusalem. The work has been beautifully carried out by Messrs. Millen and Chrisfield, masons, of Faversham and Sittingbourne.
Within the Church, near to the pew of the Selby family, there has been placed a memorial brass, which was also dedicated by the Bishop. The inscription upon this brass is as follows:- "The Churchyard Cross was restored on its original base in proud and loving memory of Gerard Prideaux Selby, Captain R.A.M.C., B.A., MB., B.Ch. Oxon., L.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., eldest son of Prideaux George Selby, and Elisabeth Mary Alice, his wife; born at Brusons in this parish on April 30th 1891; killed while attending the wounded at the capture of Thiepval, on the 26th day of September, 1916, and buried at Ovilliers. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." [The translation of the Latin is: "It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country."] The tablet also bears the Selby arms and the crest of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The members of the family present at the dedication were: Dr. and Mrs. Selby, Lieut Cuthbert Selby, R.F.C. (son), and Mrs. and Capt. Mandys Dawes (daughter and son-in-law). Another son, who is an officer in the Navy, was unable to be present. Lieut. Cuthbert Selby has, unhappily, lost his left arm as a result of his service at the Front, and for a long while he was a prisoner of war, being released from internment in Switzerland only quite recently.
There was also at the service a numerous congregation of parishioners, among whom Dr. and Mrs. Selby are held in great esteem.
The Service, with the exception of the actual dedication of the cross, took place in the Church, the portion of evensong service being taken by the Vicar, Rev. W.A. Purton. The hymns selected were "For all the saints who from their labours rest," "Fight the good fight," and "Onward Christian Soldiers." After the Blessing, the National anthem was sung, and for an outgoing voluntary the organist played the beautiful music of "O for the wings of a dove."
The Bishop in an address, dealt briefly with the career of the late Captain Selby (of which we have previously given details) and said he was sure that the deepest sympathy had been felt for Dr. and Mrs. Selby in their loss of so promising, so highly valued and so gallant and gifted a son. he referred also to the patriotism which had been manifested by the family, and mentioned the fact that among the sons of Dr. and Mrs. Selby all three branches of His Majesty's Services had been represented - Sea, Land and Air. He added that the record of the gallant life and noble death of the one who had gone should in future years stir many a heart to deeds of patriotism and self-sacrifice."
Reported Saturday 27th October 1917 - Bexhill-on-Sea Observer
WAR SHRINE DEDICATED
The handsome oak War Shrine given by Mrs. Eastty, of [No.5] St. Nectan's, Canteloupe-road, in memory of Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, M.B., R.A.M.C., who was killed while attending to the wounded on 26th September, 1916, was dedicated on Sunday.
White flowers had been placed in vases in front of the Shrine. Immediately after Matins the congregation proceeded outside to the Shrine, which stands in the enclosure facing Sea-road. The Rev. E Mortlock performed the ceremony. The Rev. D.J.C. Hearn was with the Choir (which was headed by the cross-bearer, Mr. A.E. Wood). The Rev. A. Rothwell Gregory, B.D., and Councillor F.W. Vane, I.S.O., were among the congregation, and Mrs Eastty was present. Mr. Alan H. Thorne accompanied the hymns on a harmonium.
The Rev. E. Mortlock asked those present to join with him in the service. The Shrine had been given by one of their parishioners in memory of a near relative.
The hymn "Stand up for Jesus," was sung. Prayers and Collects followed and the Lesson was the well-known passage from the Book of Wisdom, beginning "The roads of the righteous are in the hand of God." The hymn, "For all the Saints," was sung at the conclusion.
Transcriptions from War Diary for 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders – 27th Division
19th December 1914: WINCHESTER: Paraded 8.30 a.m. Marched to Southampton. Embarked on H.T. NOVIAN Officers embarking. Lt. Col. Henderson commanding. All Officers listed including Lt. Selby R.A.M.C.
20th December: HAVRE: Disembarked. Marched to ST ADRESSE Rest Camp.
21st December – January 1915: Entrained for the Front into trenches at AIRE and then DICKEBUSCH where they experienced numerous killed and injured between January and March when Gerard Prideaux Selby was injured along with two orderlies (one of whom died soon afterward from injuries sustained).
21st January: ELZONVALLE: Billets: “Our first sight of the enemy! Two German sappers had lost their way, or deserted and had been taken by Camerons.”
On the “health front”: Lt SELBY’s teams were faced by illness arising from the “indescribable filth” of French billets, intense cold, wet and verminous uniforms. Priority was also given to patching up injured men enough for them to return to the Trenches.
26th January: “C.O. went to hospital in morning; several officers very seedy.”
8th February: ELZONVALLE: Aeroplanes busy all day and in afternoon billets badly shelled. Very good shooting [1 room and kitchen knocked about. The Medical Officer’s primus stove, medical haversack, and three pairs of green boots destroyed – luckily nothing was set on fire.]
19th February: DICKEBUSCH in trenches: “Lieutenant R. Stirling shot through the head and instantly killed while bandaging a wounded man in Trench 21.” [Buried on 21st February].
28th February: ZEVECOTEN: Out of trenches. Some hospitalised men returned – “2nd Lt Duff, 4th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders joined with draft of returned hospital men.”
3rd March: ZEVECOTEN: “Sick Parade of 35 men.”
9th March: Trenches: “All leave has been stopped”.
11th March: DICKEBUSCH: Trenches: “Marched in evening to relieve Gloucester regiment. Relief quickly carried out except Machine Gun which was delayed by an order miscarrying. A new Medical Officer (temporary) Lt. Weir RAMC(T) attached to relieve Lt. Selby who was wounded while on the road near HALLEBAST CORNER. His two orderlies, Lieutenants Munro and Gibb also both wounded – the latter dying of wounds in the evening. Lieutenant Selby will be much missed as he was excellent with the men.”
Gerard Selby returned home to convalesce.
A 'close shave' was hinted at in a short newspaper report from the Faversham and North East Kent News on 27th February 1915. "Lieut. Gerard Selby, R.A.M.C. another son of Dr Selby, is attached to the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and is at the Front. A room in which he was at work on one occasion was wrecked by one of the enemy’s shells."
An account of his later death is contained in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 23rd September 1916:
"ROLL OF HONOUR. We regret to announce that Gerard Prideaux Selby, B.A., M.B., B.Ch (Oxon), M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., Captain R.A.M.C., eldest son of Dr. and Mrs. Prideaux George Selby, of Teynham, has been killed in action.
The deceased officer was born on April 30th, 1891, and was therefore in his 26th year. He was educated at The Grange, Folkestone; Winchester; New College Oxford; and St. Bartholemew's Hospital, London. During the Turko Bulgarian War, he served with a British Red Cross unit in Bulgaria. He entered the R.A.M.C. in July, 1914, and went to the Front attached to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the following December, was wounded near Ypres in March 1915, returned to the Front on September 4th, 1916, and was killed on September 26th while attending to wounded at the capture of Thiepval."
The same newspaper elaborated on 14th October:
"Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, R.A.M.C., whose death at the front we announced last week, was always keen to get where the work and the risks were greatest. In the early part of last year after several very narrow escapes, in one of which his dressing station was completely wrecked by a shell, he was wounded in the thigh near Ypres. On recovery he went to Cosham Military Hospital and did useful work in training officers and N.C.O.'s. Returning to the front in September, he was at first attached to field ambulances, but at his own urgent solicitation was subsequently appointed Regimental Medical Officer to a Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers. This Regiment was in the thick of the Somme Battle. On joining the Regiment Captain Selby wrote home saying, "Don't worry, I have got what I wanted at last." He was killed, as we stated last week, while attending wounded at the capture of Thiepval on Sept., 26th, and buried on the 28th in the cemetery on the west side of Ovillers."
"In a private letter to the General Commanding the Brigade, the Officer Commanding the Lancashire Fusiliers said: "I am dreadfully sorry to have to tell you that Selby was killed last night. It appears that he went out to look after some wounded men. He was himself mortally wounded and died before he could be brought in to the Aid post ... Selby was only with us for a short time, but I was particularly impressed with is keenness. When I visited his Aid Post yesterday morning I congratulated him on the energy which he had shown in making his preparations. On behalf of the Battalion I must express our profound sympathy and ask you to convey this message to his relations."
The East Kent Gazette Obituary, dated 7th October 1916 expands our understanding further:
KILLED IN ACTION. CAPTAIN GERARD PRIDEAUX SELBY R.A.M.C. We regret to have to record the death of Captain Gerard Prideaux Selby, R.A.M.C., the eldest son son of Dr. and Mrs. Prideaux Selby, of Bruson, Teynham, the sad event occurring in France on September 26th. The gallant officer, whose portrait we publish, sacrificed his life in his country's cause, for he was killed while in the noble performance of his duty, attending to the wounded in the firing line.
The deceased officer, who was born on April 30th, 1891, started his education under the Rev. T.J. Sewell, at Lynsted Vicarage. He always believed in Lord Robert's warnings, warnings about Germany and prepared himself in military knowledge. He passed his examination for Certificates A and B and was a moving spirit in the O.T.C. at New College, Oxford, where he attained the rank of sergeant, and had much to do with the training and efficiency of that body.
Though he could have had a commission at that time, his heart was always in medical work, and he refused to be drawn from it.
At Oxford he rowed in the New College Torpids Eight as a freshman, and in his second year in the second boat in Eights Week and the first eights in Torpids. Work in his third year prevented him from rowing in the College eight, and he played hockey for New College instead. He took his M.B. with honours. He had great power of concentration at his work, and passed all medical examinations in the shortest possible time.
As a hockey player, at back, Captain Selby will be remembered in this district as a cool and useful member of the Greenstreet team.
Whilst studying at St. Bartholemew's Hospital, London he joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. as private and held the rank of sergeant when he passed into the R.A.M.C. in July, 1914, just before the War broke out.
After six months' service he was promoted to Captain, and he used to say, that he had been private, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain all within a little more than a year.
His influence with men was great and good. At the outbreak of War he trained a company of R.A.M.C. men at Aldershot, and on going abroad again shortly before his death met many of these men at the Front.
After leaving Aldershot, Captain Selby joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, at Winchester, as regimental medical officer, and went to the Front with the regiment. After several very narrow escapes, in one of which his dressing station was completely tracked by a shell, he was wounded in the thigh in March, 1915, near Ypres. On recovering from his wound he went to Cosham Military Hospital and did useful work in training officers and non-commissioned officers.
He then went to Taunton as a member of the Medical Board for examining recruits. For a short time he then joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry at Winchester and went to the Front again on September 4th, where he was first attached to a field ambulance. He was always keen to get where the work and the risks were greatest, and at his own urgent solicitation was appointed Regimental Medical Officer to a Battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers. This regiment was in the thick of the Somme Battle. On joining this regiment he wrote home saying. "Don't worry. I have got what I wanted at last."
He was killed at the capture of Thiepval on September 26th, and was buried on the 28th, in the cemetery on the west side of Ovillers.
In a private letter to the General Commanding the Brigade, the Officer Commanding the Lancashire Fusiliers said: "I am dreadfully sorry to have to tell you that Selby was killed last night. It appears that he went out to look after some wounded men. He was himself mortally wounded and died before he could be brought in to the Aid Post.....Selby was only with us for a very short time, but I was particularly impressed with his keenness. When I visited his Aid Post yesterday morning I congratulated him on the energy which he had shown in making his preparations. On behalf of the Battalion I must express our profound sympathy and ask you to convey this message to his relations."
His parents, Dr. and Mrs. Selby, are much touched with the great sympathy expressed in the large number of letters and messages they have received which they hope in due course to acknowledge.
Dr. and Mrs. Selby's second son is a Lieutenant on H.M.S. Lion, was specially mentioned in dispatches, and received promotion for his services in the Battle of Jutland. Their third son, in the Royal Flying Corps, after flying over the area where the Battle of the Somme is now being fought for four months was badly wounded in an air fight with a Fokker, and is a prisoner of war at Crefeld in Germany. General sympathy will go out to the family in their sad bereavement.
The Battle of Mouquet Farm was initiated as part of the Battle of Pozieres (23rd August to 3rd September), fought over by the Canadians who eventually carried this strong-point against German opposition on 16th September. The German forces counter-attacked to regained lost ground. It was during the recapture on 26th September that Gerard Prideaux Selby lost his life (part of the Battle of Thiepval Ridge).
Transcribed from the War Diaries of the 9th (Service) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
1st September: GOUY EN TERNOIS [30km West of Arras]: Route marching and training. Weather still wet and rather cold.
2nd-3rd September: FREVENT ACHEUX: “The Battalion moved to FREVENT and entrained for ACHEUX then via march route to huts in PUCHEVILLERS. The Division being transferred to the II Corps Reserve Army.
4th–7th September: PUCHEVILLERS: The attack was practised on dummy trenches near the village. All specialists were issues with distinguishing marks. Lewis Gunners a red “L” on each arm. Snipers & Scouts a red “S” on each arm. Grenadiers a strip of red braid on each shoulder strap. Signallers a blue and white brassard running; Runners a yellow brassard. Wire-cutters a white tape about 6 inches long attached at one end to the left shoulder. A practice attack was carried out.
8th September: The Battalion moved to billets at BOUZINCOURT.
9th September: BOUZINCOURT [Immediately north of Albert]: Physical Training and cleaning billets. Draft of 47 other ranks arrived.
10th September: Church Parade. Captain W. Templar Powell 4th Lancashire Fusiliers joined for duty.
11th September: 640 men were found for working parties in OVILLERS. 6pm: About 6 8” shells were fired into the village by the enemy. The Battalion had no casualties. Rev. FLEMING (RC) arrived Rev. STANIFORTH (RC) left.
12th September: 550 found for digging in OVILLERS. Lieutenant F.A. RALFS was wounded (died of wounds 16th). One O.R. killed, one O.R. wounded. Lt Colonel WOODCOCK left to take command of the 7th Battalion BORDER REGIMENT.
13th September: 400 men found for digging near AVELUY. One O.R. killed.
14th September: Physical Training.
15th September: The Battalion stood to all day ready to move at half an hour’s notice.
16th September: The Battalion was ordered to relieve the 4th & 5th Canadian Battalion in the line R2Sd5S – R2SC21. The Battalion came under the command of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade pending the arrival of the 34th Brigade. Definite orders were not received until a very late hour and the relief was not completed until about 5.30 am on the 17th inst.
17th September: 5pm: A heavy hostile bombardment was directed against the front line occupied by the Battalion throughout the afternoon causing great damage to the trenches and inflicting 70 casualties in the 2½ Companies in the front line and supports area. Lt E E GRIMWADE was killed and 2nd Lt A.B. ROWLERSON evacuated with shell shock.
No enemy attack followed, though fully expected.
18th/19th September: On the night 18/19 the Battalion was relieved by the 43rd Canadian Battalion. Owing to the heavy rain which had fallen throughout the 18th the relief was extremely difficult and was not completed before 5.30am on 19th inst. 6a.m. On being relieved the Battalion moved to dugouts in OVILLERS
19th September: BOUZINCOURT: 2p.m.: The Battalion moved from the dugouts at OVILLERS to BOUZINCOURT.
20th September: A thoroughly wet day employed in endeavouring to clean up after the muddy trenches.
21st September: OVILLERS: 10a.m.: The Battalion moved to dugouts in OVILLERS.
22nd September: MAILLY MAILLET: 2p.m.: The Battalion moved to huts in WOOD at MAILLY.
23rd September: Cleaning up. Reorganising. Inspections.
24th September: The Battalion practised the attack in view of the fact that it was to take part in offensive operations on a large scale within a few days.
25th September: The Battalion moved up to AVELUY (CRUCIFIX CORNER) in the morning and waited until dark, when it proceeded to relieve part of the 9th Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment in the trenches R33b59 (exclusive) to R33a54.
26th September: OVILLERS/MOUQUET FARM: 12.35pm: The Battalion carried out an attack in accordance with Operation Order No. 27 (h/9). Zero Hour being 12.35 pm. The net result was that ZOLLERN TRENCH was occupied but the 3rd Objective (STUFF REDOUBT) was not captured. CAPTAIN E.C. LONGWORTH was killed while leading his Company between the 1st and 2nd Objective as also was Lt. SCHOOLING.
Capt. SELBY (RAMC) was killed by bullet whilst attending to wounded in the open under fire. Lieut HOYLAND, Lt. J.Shaw. 2nd Lt HARRIS and 2nd Lt TWIST (who remained at duty) were all wounded. Capt. DAVIES, 2nd Lt LAMB, 2nd Lt POTTER were reported missing. The Battalion suffering about 400 casualties in the ranks. A detailed report of the operations is being compiled and will be attached as an Appendix to the War Diary for period 1st-31st October 1916.
27th September: Battalion Headquarters moved to R27c54 – ZOLLERN TRENCH was shelled by enemy all day but casualties were few.
28th September: ZOLLERN TRENCH shelled by enemy most of the day casualties few owing to hard work done in consolidation.
28th/29th September: The battalion was ordered to withdraw to dugouts at OVILLERS the 32 Brigade have attacked through ZOLLER TRENCH and occupied trenches in advance of it.
30th September: The Battalion moved to billets at VARENNES preparatory to entraining for “A” Area.
1. On September 25th in anticipation of the attack on STUFF REDOUBT and HESSIAN TRENCH, the Battalion moved from MAILLY MAILLET at 2.30 p.m. and proceeded into bivouac at CRUCIFIX CORNER, preparatory to relieving the 9th York & Lancaster Regiment in the front line trenches about MOUQUET FARM.
2. During the night of the 25th/26th, this relief was carried out, Companies being disposed in the front line trenches as follows:
“X” Company – from R33b59 to SOUTH WEST CORNER OF MOUQUET FARM.
“Y” Company – from SOUTH WEST corner, for about 180 yards along trench towards R33a77.
“Z” Company – from left of “Y” Company through R33a77 to R33a54.
“W” Company – In Support, in the trench R33b55 to R33a14.
In accordance with Brigade Instructions Battalion Headquarter were established on the OVILLERS-POZIERES Road in X2. An Advance Battalion Report Centre was established at the QUARRY in R33, and was connected by wire with Battalion Headquarters during the morning of the 26th.
A Regimental Aid Post was also established at the QUARRY. A Battalion Observation Post was dug during the night at R33b98. Dumps for Ammunition, Stores etc., were formed at KAYS DUMP and at QUARRY POST.
3. Brigade Orders for the attack on the 26th., were received at CRUCIFIX CORNER about 7.0pm on 25th. The General arrangement for the attack had however been previously explained in detail to Company Commanders; and on receipt of Brigade Operation Orders, I at once again discussed the details with Company Commanders.
4. The tasks allotted to the Battalion on the 26th were as follows:-
(a) 1st Objective – R27b51 exclusive – Along trench to R27c54 inclusive.
2nd Objective – R21d01 exclusive – along ZOLLERS TRENCH to R26b86 (inclusive).
3rd Objective – R21a97 exclusive – STUFF REDOUBT – A20d91.
(b) To block the exits from MOUQUET FARM. These exits were personally explained to me by the Brigadier as existing in the rubble heaps close to our jumping off trenches and it was not intended that the Battalion should capture the FARM but merely keep the enemy there in check whilst the assaulting Companies advanced.
(c) To clear up points R27c54 and 38.
5. (a) To carry the three objectives named, “X”, “Y” and “Z” Companies were detailed by me as the Assaulting Companies, the frontage in the “jumping off” trench being sub-allotted in accordance with their distribution as given in para 2, with the exception that “Z” Company was to “jump off” with its left resting on R33a97. These Companies were ordered to advance in Column of Platoons at 20 paces distance with the men extended to about 5 paces. “W” Company (less 1 platoon) was ordered to advance in Support close in rear of “Y” Company in line of Sections in file; its special role being to Support “Z” Company against point R27c54 (1st Objective) and “X” Company against STUFF REDOUBT (3rd Objective).
(b) The Battalion Grenadier Section and a weak Platoon of “W” Company were place under the orders of 2/Lieut. J.C.B. HARRIS; the Battalion Grenadier Officer, to block the exits from MOUQUET FARM.
(c) “Z” Company was ordered to clear up the points R27c54 & 38.
These orders were explained personally by me to Officer’s Commanding Companies and Battalion Grenadier Officer and were subsequently issued to them in writing during the night of the 25th/26th.
6. In the early morning of the 26th I visited the Companies in the front line and ascertained that “X” Company were in touch with the 8th (S) Battalion The Northumberland Fusiliers on its right and “Z” Company with the 9th Notts & Derby Regiment on its left. I assembled Officers Commanding Companies and 2/Lieut. HARRIS at QUARRY POST and discussed in detail their arrangements for the attack.
7. ZERO Hour was fixed for 12.35 p.m.
AT ZERO + 2 in accordance with instructions, the Assaulting Companies advanced. The Bombing parties under 2/Lieut. HARRIS at the same hour rushed forward in two parties; leaving a Support in the fire trench; one party to block the NORTHERN EXIT, which from information given me by the Brigadier was understood to exist in the rubble heap about 40 yards NORTH of our trench; the second party to block the exit believed to exist to the SOUTH of our trench.
The 1st Bombing Party found a party of the enemy actually in position on the rubble heap the command of which gave considerable advantage over our men, who however engaged the enemy successfully. Their action undoubtedly enabled “X” Company to advance beyond the FARM. The 2nd Bombing Party saw no Germans, but three bombs down what they took to be exits and at any rate prevented any enemy from emerging from that direction.
After the Companies had advanced, 2.Lieut. HARRIS’ Party was involved in a confused scuffle round the rubble heaps. There were many casualties early including 2/Lieut. HARRIS himself and the senior N.C.O.’s and our men were eventually absorbed into the parties of the 11th Manchester Regiment and 6th East Yorkshire Regiment when the Garrison of MOUQUET FARM eventually capitulated.
8. Meanwhile the Assaulting companies and the Company in Support were advancing. From the very outset “X” Company on the right appears to have got into difficulties after passing the FARM Buildings were Lieut. HARRIS’ Bombing Party were holding the enemy in check. The Company suffered severely from enfilade fire from HIGH TRENCH, and the rear Platoon under 2.Lieut. LAMB appears to have been diverted to the right in order to deal with this.
I have not had an opportunity of going over the ground, but apparently the enemy held strong positions about HIGH TRENCH and to the NORTH of the FARM, and there is no doubt that such an obstacle at the very outset of the advance was of a most serious nature, and broke up the regularity of the attack of our right against the 1st Objective. It was in fact an objective in itself.
9. “Y” Company on the left of “X” Company also suffered from having its right open to enfilade fire and as it advanced further towards the 1st Objective from reverse fire.
“Z” Company on the left was more fortunate in this respect and its advance against the 1st Objective was carried out in excellent order with slight casualties.
10. “W” Company advancing behind “Y” Company experienced the same difficulties and a portion at any rate of the Company had to be turned about to deal with Germans between MOUQUET FARM and our 1st Objective.
11. The result of the serious opposition met with from HIGH TRENCH and the NORTH of MOUQUET FARM was that, the right of the Battalion was heavily engaged before reaching the 1st Objective and consequently our line recoiled towards its left, leaving a gap between ourselves and the 8th Northumberland Fusiliers, although the party which had been specially detailed by “X” Company to keep touch not only did so, but were eventually merged into the line held by that Battalion.
12. On reaching the 1st Objective, the Assaulting Companies found a considerable number of Germans. These were dealt with by bomb and bayonet, but the short time (10 minutes) allowed at this objective was not sufficient for the complete clearance of the enemy, and in spite of arrangements for leaving clearing up parties behind there is no doubt that some Germans survived who shot at our men as they advanced towards the 2nd Objective.
13. The Advance from the 1st Objective was however carried out in satisfactory order, although with considerably diminished numbers.
Our right which as indicated above had already recoiled towards the left came under very severe enfilade fire from Machine Guns ourselves and the 8th Northumberland Fusiliers was considerably widened. Our left met with serious opposition from MIDWAY LINE evidence all along this portion of the advance shows the violent fighting which took place. The Germans offered a stout resistance and taking refuge in dug-outs left a considerable number of their killed and wounded. Six Trench Mortars were also abandoned by them, round which there were found several of their dead lying with some of ours.
14. On reaching the 2nd Objective our men were mostly collected towards our extreme left about point R26b86.
Only one Officer of those who had “gone over” was now left, and our casualties had been severed. Some opposition was encountered and dealt with, and our men dug themselves in, whilst the Lewis Gun Section of “Z” Company did excellent work as a covering party.
15. The Battalion Intelligence Officer who was observing from the Observation Post at R33b98 is confident that he saw some of the men advancing at the arranged hour from the 2nd to the 3rd Objective and the somewhat confused reports from wounded confirms this impression, but there is no trace of any such men, and if any did reach the 3rd Objective they must have been in totally inadequate numbers to make good their position.
16. The situation on the evening of the 26th then was this. The WESTERN end of ZOLLERN TRENCH towards R26b86 was held. The strength of the Battalion had however been exhausted. Firstly by the opposition met with from the enemy stronghold at MOUQUET FARM and about HIGH TRENCH. Secondly by the failure to clear ZOLLERN REDOUBT on our right flank. Thirdly by the stout resistance offered at the 1st Objective and along MIDWAY LINE.
17. Battalion Headquarters had remained at the commencement of the action in accordance with Brigade instructions on the OVILLERS Road, but the Battalion Intelligence Officer with the Battalion Scouts at the Observation Post were in observation of the whole field covered by the Battalion and the Intelligence Officer had orders to send constant reports of the progress made. From these reports it appeared that the 2nd Objective had been gained at the specified time.. At this hour I was ordered by the Brigadier to move Battalion Headquarters to the ZOLLERN REDOUBT so as to be close at hand to organise the consolidation of the 3rd Objective. I at once therefor moved forward through the enemy barrage to my Advance Report Centre at QUARRY POST, where I met the Battalion Headquarters 8th Northumberland Fusiliers under similar orders to move to ZOLLERN REDOUBT.
The two Headquarters moved forward from QUARRY POST together, proceeding towards R27d91 so as to avoid the conflict which was still in progress round MOUQUET FARM.
At or about R27d91 further progress became difficult owing to the ground being swept with Machine Gun Fire and I became separated from the O.C. 8th Northumberland Fusiliers back to the QUARRY POST.
As my orders however were to proceed to ZOLLERN REDOUBT I pushed along towards point 59. Near this point my way was completely barred by the enemy both to the left front and to the right. It was evident then that ZOLLERN REDOUBT was not clear of the enemy and although I believed that portions of the 8th Northumberland Fusiliers and 5th Dorset Regiment were in front the exact situation was obscure. At any rate it soon became obvious that existing situation cut me off completely from my Battalion.
Having now with me only two Officers and 2 Runners and no covering troops I decided to withdraw towards HIGH TRENCH until the situation in front was cleared up. On my way back to HIGH TRENCH I met the Brigade Major who gave me to understand that the Brigadier had ordered my Battalion Headquarters forward under the belief that ZOLLERN REDOUBT was held by our troops. Acting on this information I decided to return to my original Headquarters in order to re-organise my Staff which had inevitably become dispersed. This was a matter of some difficulty as the attempt to reach ZOLLERN REDOUBT had resulted in being cut off from my Command for the best part of 7 hours. It was not until nearly daybreak on the 27th that I had collected and re-organised my Headquarters and means of communication. During the night I received information as to the situation at the WESTERN end of ZOLLERN TRENCH.
18. On the morning of the 27th Battalion Headquarter moved to the GRAVEL PIT at R27c54 in close communication with the remnants of the Assaulting Companies, of whom now only some 60 remained, in ZOLLERN TRENCH.
Steps were taken to clear ZOLLERN TRENCH EASTWARDS as far as R27a59 and to organise a defence along the whole length of ZOLLERN TRENCH from R26b86 to R21d01. This was successfully done with the small numbers available and the Battalion remained in this position until orders were received to withdraw on the afternoon of September 28th.
19. Throughout the period – September 26th – 28th the reserve personnel of Lewis Gunners, Signallers etc., who had originally remained at CRUCIFIX CORNER but moved to Battalion Headquarter on the OVILLERS Road on the night of the 26th/27th worked continuously in spite of the enemy barrage in carrying stores and Suppliers up to the Battalion Dump at QUARRY POST with the result that there was never at any time any shortage.
On the night of the 27th/28th this reserve was also called upon by the Brigade to carry Stores for the 5th Dorset Regiment in the ZOLLERN REDOUBT.
This arduous duty was carried out in most commendable manner. They were also employed in evacuating wounded.
20. This account does not pretend to be exhaustive nor does it guarantee complete accuracy. The loss of all the Company Commanders and of all but two of the Officers who “went over” has made it impossible up to the present to collect accurate and adequate information on many details. The serious casualties alone speak for the violent nature of the struggle.
Signed: Lieut. Colonel (EC Waliston?), 4th October 1916. Commanding 9th Lancashire Fusiliers.
Reported in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 23rd September 1916: "Lieut.-Col. William Selby, D.S.O., whose death has occurred at Lucknow as the result of an accident while motorcycling, was a brother of Dr. Prideaux Selby, of Teynham. The deceased gentleman belonged to the Indian Medical Service, was principal of King George's Medical College, Lucknow, and honorary surgeon to the Viceroy of India. The younger son of the late Mr. Prideaux Selby, of Croydon, he was born in June, 1869, was educated at the Whitgift Grammar School and at St. Bartholemew's Hospital, and qualified as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, London, and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, in 1892. He served with the relief forces in the operations in Chitral in 1895. He served with the relief forces in the operations in Chitral in 1895, for which he had the medal with clasp, and in 1897-8 in those on the North-West frontier of India and in the Tirah campaign, when he obtained mention in despatches. In addition to clasps to his medal he was awarded the companionship of the Distinguished Service Order. He remained in military employ till 1899, and was subsequently civil surgeon in the United Provinces."
Reported in the Faversham and North East Kent news of 15th September 1917 – "Among the officers just repatriated from Switzerland is 2nd Lieut C.W.P. Selby, R.F.C., son of Dr. and Mrs. Selby, of Teynham."