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SHERWOOD FORESTERS ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO

BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE 9 MAY 1915

 

Before the 1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters had made good their 458 casualties suffered at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 they were in action again a few miles further eastwards. On 9 May they fought the Battle of Aubers Ridge attacking the German lines near Fromelles in French Flanders.

The attack was mounted in co-operation with an attack by the French further to the south. The Battalion attacked in the second wave as part of 24th Infantry Brigade of the 8th Division. After a short bombardment B and D companies of the 1st Battalion went “over the bags” at 0555 am in support of the 2nd East Lancashires. Delays were caused by the fact that our front line trenches were choked by casualties from the first attacking wave who had made little progress against a German front line on which the short bombardment had been almost completely ineffective. At least eight machine guns were firing against the attacking Foresters. Despite this heavy fire one platoon got within 40 yards of the German breastworks but found that our artillery had only blown one gap, 4 yards wide, in the German wire. The two companies fell back to the British front line to re-group.

At 0735 am the Foresters attacked again in support of the East Lancashires, this time A and C companies leading followed by the remnants of B and D companies. The attack stalled under heavy enemy machine gun and artillery fire and most of the Foresters fell or took cover in No Mans Land before retiring to the British front line at about 1.15 pm where they suffered many more casualties in the next 6 hours as the German fire systematically destroyed the British breastworks. By the time that the Foresters were relieved by the 1st Worcesters at 10 pm they had suffered a loss of 55 killed , 257 wounded and 47 missing and not one British soldier had reached the enemy front line.

 During the battle, as the citation for his Victoria Cross says “For most conspicuous bravery near Rouges Bancs on the 9th May 1915. During the whole of this day Corporal Upton displayed the greatest courage in rescuing the wounded while exposed to very heavy rifle and artillery fire, going close to the enemy’s parapet, regardless of his own personal safety. One wounded man was killed by a shell while this non-commissioned officer was carrying him. When Corporal Upton was not actually carrying in the wounded, he was engaged in bandaging and dressing the serious cases in front of our parapet, exposed to the enemy’s fire”. Corporal James Upton was a 27 year old from the Meadows area of Nottingham. He had joined the 1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters on 1906. He married in July 1915, had three children and survived the war. He died in 1949.

Cpl Upton VC           Stretcher Bearer

 Corporal James Upton VC 

So many British artillery shells failed to detonate at the Battle of the Aubers Ridge that an enquiry was held. Two results of this enquiry were the fall of Asquith’s government and a total re-organisation of the industrial production of munitions including the foundation of National Shell Filling Factory No 6 at Chilwell over the winter of 1915-16

 Author:Maj (Retd) J H Cotterill MBE

 

 

BADAJOZ - APRIL 6th 1812

On March 16th 1812 a British Force some 15,000 strong with a battering train of 52 guns reached Badajoz, a strongly fortified Spanish town near the frontier with Portugal.

In 1811 Badajoz had been delivered up to Marshal Soult and although the British had made two attempts to retake it, they had failed on each occasion after heavy losses owing to the battering train being insufficient. There was nothing very remarkable about its quaint crooked streets and its massive cathedral, beyond the natural strength of its position rising some 300 feet above the marshy plain, with bastions and their connecting curtains to protect it from attack.

General of Brigade Philippon commanded in Badajoz with a force of 4,742 men and although short of powder and shell, still presented a formidable task to a besieging army. He had taken every means possible to strengthen his post: mines were laid, the arch of a bridge built up to form a dam, ditches cut and filled with water, fortifications constructed, ramparts repaired and that he should have no useless mouths to feed, the inhabitants were ordered to lay up 3 months' provisions or leave the town. Badajoz was also protected on one side by a river, 500 yards wide in places and having several outworks, notably one called the Picurina on a hill to the South East.

Such was Badajoz when Picton's 3rd Division (which included the 45th of Foot (1st Nottinghamshire Regiment)), Lowry Cole's 4th Division and the Light Division invested it. The rest of the army covered the siege and the 5th Division was on its way from Beira

On the night of 17th March; 2,000 men moved silently forward to guard the working parties who began to break ground 160 yards from the Picurina. The sentinels on the ramparts heard nothing in the howling wind and at daylight, so well had the volunteers from the 3rd Division laboured, 3,000 yards of communication and a parallel 600 yards long were revealed.

The next night, it was prolonged to the right and left and two batteries traced out. Wet and stormy weather harassed the workmen and flooded the trenches, but in spite of this the parallel was extended across the Seville Road, towards the river by the 21st March and three counter-batteries were commenced between Picurina and the river in order to open on San Roque, which covered the bridge and dam across the Rivillas as well as the Castle and the ground on the left of it.

BATTLE OF THE ALMA

20 SEPTEMBER 1854

"THE 95TH BAPTISM OF FIRE"

The basic cause of the Crimean War was the designs of Russia on Constantinople. The Czar of Russia, by diplomatic means, had managed to establish a claim to a protectorate over the Christians in Europe of the Sultan of Turkey - (something like 3/5 of the population of European Turkey). In 1853 the Czar put forward claims which would have meant the virtual disappearance of Turkey as an independent state. So Great Britain and France agreed to support Turkey and declared war on Russia on 28th March 1853. (Sardinia later joined the Western alliance in 1855).

In March 1854, the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment (in 1881 this became the 2nd Battalion the Sherwood Foresters) received orders to be prepared to leave England as part of the Expeditionary Force to Turkey. This force was composed of five Infantry Divisions, each containing two Brigades. The strength of each Division being about "5,000 bayonets". Also a cavalry Division of one heavy and one light Brigade. Finally three troops of Horse Artillery and eight Field Batteries. The Regiment finally collected itself at Portsmouth on April 4th eight companies strong. The 95th had been brought up to strength by volunteers from the 6th, 36th, 48th and 82nd Regiments of Foot and were, according to their officers 'a magnificent body of men'. The Regiment sailed on the "S.S. Medway" for Turkey on the 6th April. The "Medway" put in for coal at Gibraltar on the 14th and Malta on the 19th April. On the 23rd she arrived at Gallipoli for orders and the troops finally landed at Scutari on the 24th April (where they were re-equipped with Minie rifles). It was the first Regiment of it's Brigade to land, the other two Regiments, the 30th of Foot (The Cambridgeshire Regiment) and the 55th of Foot (The Westmoreland Regiment) were not finally on the ground until 21st May.