Welcome to East Chinnock
East Chinnock and World War 1
Part 9
by Jeremy Churchill
Autumn 1915
The temporary lull enjoyed by most British and Imperial troops during the summer of 1915 , both on the Western Front and in Gallipoli, came to an end with the onset of autumn, Sadly, the renewed fighting saw the deaths of two men from East Chinnock:

The progress of the Gallipoli campaign having proved very disappointing to the British and French high command, one more effort was made to try and break the stalemate. A landing was made at Suvla Bay on the west side of the Gallipoli peninsula, north of the existing trench lines, to catch the Ottoman troops by surprise. A landing on a defended coastline is one of the most difficult military operations in the book, and sadly the man appointed to lead the Suvla Bay landings proved to be not up to the task. The result was that after suffering very heavy casualties during the landings and the fighting to establish a bridgehead and then link up with the Allied forces further south, the invading English troops were unable to break the resistance of the Ottoman forces and, instead of being broken, the stalemate was extended across a new fighting front.

Private (Stanley) William Axe (Regimental No. 516), 5th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers), Royal Irish Regiment, 29th Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division; sailed from Liverpool on the 7th July 1915, to Gallipoli via Mudros. Landed at Suvla Bay on the 7th August 1915 and died on the 16th August 1915, almost certainly during the fighting for the ridge called Kiretch Tepe Sirt, just north of Suvla Bay. Private Axe, of 410 New Buildings, was the grandson of Sarah (widow). He was born in 1896, so was only 19 when killed. Private Axe is remembered on the Helles Memorial, which stands on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Other East Chinnock men who were enjoying the delights of fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula (omnipresent flies, heat, dust, dysentery, artillery fire and very accurate and active Ottoman snipers) were Driver Herbert Axe (Regimental No. 53374), 123rd Battery Royal Field Artillery, who was serving as a Saddler in the 29th Division’s Ammunition column. Driver Axe, of 416 Carter’s Lane, was the grandson of Alice (widow), son of Nathaniel (widower), brother of Alfred, Frederick & Elizabeth) and was 24 in 1915. The 19-year-old Private William Bartlett Young (Regimental No. 995), was serving with the 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry, which were posted to Gallipoli on the 23rd September 1915 to fight as infantry, without their horses.

Meanwhile, back in Belgium and France, the fighting on the Western Front intensified again as the French commander, Joffre, resumed his efforts to drive the German invaders out of France. A massive attack by the French Army in the Champagne region was to be supported by the British Army with the strongest offensive effort it had made so far in the War, in which it would try to take the German positions mining community of Loos-en-Gohelle (from which the battle gets its name).

Most WW1 battles are controversial; Loos particularly so. Neither Sir John French (Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force) or Sir Douglas Haig (Commander, 1st Army) thought it a good place for an offensive but succumbed to French pressure, Haig only on being promised that poison gas could be used to assist his men in overcoming the Germans. Loos is best known for the first use by the British of poison gas (which in the event blew back over British lines and caused as many casualties amongst the attacking troops as amongst the Germans), but the failure of the British artillery barrage due to poor planning, lack of heavy guns and lack of experience by the gunners, as well as insufficient stocks of ammunition, resulted in heavy casualties amongst the attacking infantry. Although the attack succeeded initially, exploitation of what successes there were failed due to poor handling of the reserve units kept in hand for just such an opportunity. When the reserves were committed, the unexpectedly poor performance of the New Army troops caused suspicion to fall on their usefulness in combat which was to lead directly to the decisions made in planning for the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Overall, the battle lost the British and Imperial forces some 59,247 casualties (the Germans are thought to have lost half that number) for very little gain. The controversy resulting from Loos culminated in the replacement of Sir John French by Sir Douglas Haig as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, a post Haig would hold for the remainder of the War.

Private Charles Vagg (Regimental No. 19865), 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division, XI Corps, 1st Army (Douglas Haig), had gone to France on 27th July 1915, and died on 27th September 1915 in the attack on the village of Hulluch behind the German lines – a day in which the 12 attacking British battalions lost 8,000 men of the 10,000 taking part. Private Vagg, of 466, “Near School” (now 466 Hyde Park). is remembered on the Loos Memorial with 20, 609 other British and Imperial soldiers who died in the battle and have no known grave.
(Picture taken from “The Western Gazette” 07/04/1916)    

With thanks to Allan Collier of Yeovil for this reference - Allan's work on local WW1 servicemen was available during 2014 - enquiries to: allancollier17@btinternet.com

Part 10
Late Autumn 1915