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aber Profile
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Battle of Messines June 1917


I would appreciate any information, eg war diaries, battalion diaries on the Battle of Messines. My grandfather was wounded there (44th Btn). I have visited Messines on three separate occasions 1998, 2000 and 2003 and am trying to piece together the action.
Regards
Mark
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greenwoodman Profile
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


I have most of the histories dealing with Messines, but they give a nil return I'm afraid. I'm reading Passingham's "Pillars of Fire" at the moment, and no mention of the 44th.
And no mention in Conan Doyle"1917",Gibbs "The Struggle in Flanders", Terraine "The Road to Passchendaele" and Fox "The Battles of the Ridges".
But if you haven't seen any of them, at least you won't have to chase them!

---
Richard Howells
Cheshire
England
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


Hi Mark
I am writing the chapter on Messines at the moment. Have just completed the daylight raid. When completed, you can have a copy to proof-read for me, if OK.

Regards
Neville
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


No mention of the 44th in the British Official History of the War, Military Operations - France and Belgium 1917 (ISBN 0901627755).

Robert
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


Whilst at Talbot House Poperinge last September, a Belgian researcher told me that she noticed many graves of Australian tunnellers KIA June 1917 at Messines. She 'deduced' that this meant a mining accident. Would appreciate any leads.[no pun intended]
Whilst in the memory, as opposed to data, bank, I can remember a [Very Large]framed photograph of Broken Hill Miners serving with 1 of the Tunnelling Cos. In the early 1980's,it was at a small general museum at [nearby]Silverton, where its historic value may not have been appreciated. Could anyone comment as to which mining co Broken Hill miners would be allocated, and whether there was a connection with Edgeworth David.
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


If I remember right, this is the only battle where Australian soldiers were said to have run away.

It appears that after the ridges capture by the Anzac Corps some NZ officers (from NZ Div in a reserve position) called down fire on the new aussie positions, of which most still had not dug in as yet.

This caused some stir and both British and Aussie Artillery joinned in firing on their SoS lines which meant on our troops. (The NZ'ers had reported a counter attack and penatration).

This caused many casulties from the aussie Bn's along the ridge and forced some our line to withdraw away from the fire.

It was reported that both British and NZ observers saw aussie troops running away from this fire.

What ever the case we remainned on the ridge and kept it from the enermy and our own guns.

S.B
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


I am not sure it was the ONLY time Aussie troops 'ran away' from the line?

I thought may have occurred a few times in the early days of 1916 at Fromelles or Poziers?
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


You may be right, aussie troops may have run away in other battles but I cannot think of any to mind.

At Fromells the only running happened at the end of the battle when those of your troops who had captured the German line found they where cut off and so the order was to get back to our lines as best they could. This also happened at Bullecourt.

Poziers is another question I think there were times small bodies of troops were shelled out of there positions. I remember something about the Windmill being a hard spot to hold because of its registeration by German guns. And the fighting around Mucky Farm had some simular happenings.

But what happened to Messines was said by wittness to be large bodies of our troops running away from the shell fire.

I'll have to get my Offical History out to reread this part of the battle and cross reference it with the NZ Official History to check both.

Interesting.

S.B

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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


Mate,

A quick read of the Offical History Vol IV Pages 638 to 640 givens a good look at what happened to the 47th, 45th and 37th Bn's.

P 639 mentions that "the advance line ran back, every man for himself" and "To the support line from which their force had fled".

S.B
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Re: Battle of Messines June 1917


(This is an extract from the 37th Battalion History
 - McNicol Pges 103-106 regarding Battle of Messines)
At 6pm Lieut. J. Roadknight had been sent forward by Major Story to ascertain the exact position on the fronts of "C" and "A" Companies. On finding the remnant of "A", he got into touch with an officer of the 47th on its left. There seemed to be few men left here, but at [sign in to see URL] Roadknight sent a message: "I interviewed a 47th officer and he intends to hold on. I think we can also. The boys seem confident." He had apparently joined up with portion of "A" and "B" Companies occupying the Green Line approximately at "Uncanny Support," and there is no indication that he was aware of troops being in advance of this position. The extreme left of the 37th's position consisted of a small party of "A" Company in charge of Sergeants I. Rosing and [sign in to see URL]. It had dug in about eighty yards short of the Green Line, on account of the 47th Battalion's main position having been established in a similar line to the left. At [sign in to see URL] Major Story received a message from Lieut. G.F Hain, the acting as O.C., "D" Company; "Our casualties have been heavy, and we require reinforcements. Could you send one platoon with as much [sign in to see URL] and bombs as you can spare? We are receiving vague rumours to the effect that a withdrawal on our left flank is imminent. Advise by runner.”
At [sign in to see URL] Lieut. Collis (A. Company) reported: “Enemy barrage very heavy on our position. Our artillery dropping a great number of shorts. Am in contact with “C” Company on my right.”
To understand these messages it is necessary to go back to the isolated group, which may have contained a few 37th men, in front of the Green Line. This party had much difficulty in holding its advanced position, owing to severe fire from trees and pill-boxes round Steignast Farm, about 400 yards away. Digging in was difficult. The British barrage had ceased; and, for fear that the enemy would also mark their post if they did so, they shrank from lighting flares, as instructed, to indicate their position to our contact aeroplane. The result was that no one in rear was aware that troops of our side had advanced so far.
Runners and stretcher-bearers found difficulty in crossing the open space from this position to the main line behind, and the lack of officers also meant an absence of messages. Towards [sign in to see URL] this advanced group repelled a strong enemy attack launched from Steignast Farm, but they were amazed and horrified (as Pte. Gallwey of the 47th said) to discover that barrage that had broken out behind them was a British barrage. The official Historian (Dr Bean) says: “In a moment it burst upon the unfortunate Australians in full force. Their position was deluged with shells. Roots were torn from the hedge, and tossed in the air, shrapnel began to crash overhead. A tree split and crashed. Fragments of steel swished along the ground, and lay smoking. Men were killed and wounded.”
It was bad enough having to endure the terrific enemy strafes that came one’s way all too frequently, but to be shelled out by one’s own guns was demoralising. The men who had fought their way forward so gallantly now fell back through the British barrage right to the Black Line. This retirement caused the left flank of the 37th to become exposed. The men under the direct control of Roadknight and Collis did not attempt to join in the withdrawal, but the flank had to swing back to avoid the British barrage. At [sign in to see URL] Roadknight sent – through Lieut. Murdoch (“C” Company) the following message to Major C. B Story: “’D’ Company on the right, 47th Battalion of left have gone and our shells are landing behind us on right and left. What shall we do?” Murdoch appended to this message, “Do you know what this barrage is for? Our men were driven out as far as I can see by our own artillery fire.”


Last edited by Kate Blake, 1/27/2004, 11:11 pm
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