Reference: N/A
2nd Life Guards, 7th Cav Bde, 3rd Cav Div: 12th - 14th May 1915

Crofton Diary
Sir Morgan Crofton, Signalling Officer, 2nd LG.
ISBN 0-7509-3739-4

Hour, date, Place Summery of Events and Information Remarks and references to Appendices
May 12th
Another fine day. Orders were received that we were to go into the trenches tonight, to relieve part of the 27th Infantry Division.
     The three Regiments of our Brigade are each to supply 260 men. The whole Division of three Brigades is to go in, making a total of 2,300 rifles at the most. Most of the day was preparing for this event.    
7:00 pm We dined at 7:00 pm, and got ready to go up to the trenches. During dinner the Colonel said that a signalling officer was not wanted in the trenches. So I was to take charge of the machine guns and pack horses, and after the guns had been dumped to bring back the horses.  
8:00 pm We marched off, about 250 strong headed by the Colonel and Stewart Menzies. Ypres lay about 2 miles off down the road. We marched down the lane to the level crossing and on to the main YPRES - VLAMERTINGHE ROAD, beyond where we turned to our left and made for YPRES.  
YPRES As we approached the town , we could see even on the outskirts the damage done by shellfire since we were there in February last. A large convent on our left as we reached the town, was in utter ruins, the wooden domes off the roof lying like enormous extinguishers in the roadway, on the top of piles of bricks and rubbish. The moat and canal at the entrance to the town filled with rubbish.
    As we passed the canal crossing by the station, word was passed back that we were to keep in sections. A precautionary measure, in case we were shelled going through.
     We marched noisily on stone pave down what was once one of the main streets towards the Cathedral and Grande Place. Not a moving creature, not a light, not a house that was not a wreck, and only with difficulty could we find a clear path through the rubbish. At the end of the street we turned to our right and crossed in front of the Cathedral and the SW end of Cloth Hall.
     The little column with the guilt figure on the top, which up to February last had escaped all damage, now lay in fifty bits. Like wise the statue of a celebrated resident of Ypres, who on our last visit to the town in February proudly surveyed the town from his stone pedestal, now lay in many pieces, legs in the air on the rubble below.
    In the roadway two caverns, 20 feet deep and 60 feet long, showed where high-explosive shells had burst into the sewers. In the twig light the gaunt relics of the cathedral and Cloth Hall stood silent witness to this organised holocaust.
     The sprits of the men became more depressed as we progressed in the silent deserted town. The ripple of laughter, songs, whistling and badinage which had risen as we marched in , had now completely ceased one heard only the clatter of hobnailed boots on the hard stones of the road.
     Having passed the end of the Cloth Hall we turned to our left, and gained the square. Our engineers had been busy most of the day burning any house which might impede the aim of our guns; as we passed the corner of the house, a fire, which had been for some time internally combusting in the cellar, burst out and engulfed with a roar the whole structure in its inflammatory embrace. By the light of this house we wended our way across the square.
     Here the change from our previous visit was even more marked. the burnt out shells of houses, roofless and windowless, surrounded the square, houses which before had been full of buyers and sellers, and doing good trade.
     The smell of dead horses was disgusting. Dotted about the square were heaps of unfortunate animals each smouldering and pointing to the abortive attempts of scavengers to clear up by burning. A few wrecked wagons added to the gaiety of the scene. As we crossed the Eastern end of the square, a few random shrapnel came with a whine and a shriek over our heads and burst in the battered and mutilated Cloth Hall.
     We marched rapidly on, and reached the road that led out to Zonnebeke, through Menin Gate. The streets here were merely heaps of ruins, in many places burning fiercely. The Menin Gate itself is non-existent, and the solid masonry walls built by Vauban had yawning gaps in them as big houses from recent shelling.
     The Glare from burning Ypres was now considerable, and in the light of which we marched on up the road. dead horses and broken wagons marked most of the way, relics of the supply columns which had been caught on the road when the Germans opened their last bombardment, the stink is awful.
     On either side of the road away in the fields odd shells were bursting and heavy firing was going on.
10:00 pm We reached the cross roads at the entrance to POTIJZE, where we halted. As spent bullets were beginning to hum over, we lay down at the side of the road, on which a ceaseless stream of wounded men, ambulance motors and supply wagons were passing up and down.  
10:30 pm We moved on, following the Leicestershire Yeomanry who were immediately in front of us. 200 yards further on we passed a large white chateau on our left which was a dressing station, and also the headquarters of some general. It was humming like a bee hive. Dozens of white flares were rising into the sky on the right and left of us, and made a striking contrast behind the angry yellow glow of Ypres.  
POITIJZE After we had gone a quarter of a mile down this road a messenger soon reached us to say we had taken the wrong road, so we retraced our steps. The magnesium flares lit up the night continuously, by which we saw that in front of us was Frezenberg Ridge, on top of which we could see the silhouettes of long lines of men getting into their trenches. We came right back to where the lane joined the main road, and at its junction we found the Colonel and Griffin with his machine guns which he had just dumped.  
Near Front Line
Back to YPRES
Our trenches were a few hundred yards further up the road, and all pack horses were now ordered back. I therefore proceeded back along the road towards the molten crucible of Ypres. More troops were coming up. I passed the 19th Hussars and the Royals. the clatter of the timber wagons on the pave was deafening. The way back seemed very long. A few shells burst over Ypres as we left the square, but the town was now empty save a few parties of engineers completing their work.
     The square was very hot, and the clouds of smoke and showers of sparks made our journey very unpleasant. We trudged along and at last got out into the open country beyond, and turned off to our huts and dugouts at Brielin.
Midnight I burrowed into my dugout in the straw feeling very tired.  
May 13th
7:30 am
I was going through that farm on my way to breakfast when I was stopped by a trooper. whom I did not know by sight, who told me that he had just seen some stragglers from the 1st life Guards. he said that we had just been shelled out of our trenches during the night, an that we were all retreating as our line had been broken. This was nice, so , telling the man that it probably wasn't true, I decided to go and breakfast and wait for confirmation which would most certainly follow. at the same time I left word that all stragglers of what ever regiment were to be brought to me.
     Ten minutes after having my breakfast a wild eyed and dishevelled man called Hills in D Squadron (2LG) appeared. He said he was the only survivor of the Regiment, which had been badly shelled, and had had frightful losses. He understood that the Germans were now entering YPRES. I told him to go to the pack horses and stay there and I decided to go off and see Staff Captain Balfour, who had been left behind in the camp.
**** Leicestershire Yeomanry state that 2nd Life Guards had retired by 6:00 am. 8th Cav Bde War Diary confirms this to.
8:30 am Balfour turned up and showed me a message from Kennedy the Brigadier from the dugout at POITIJZE saying that the Brigade had been shelled out of the front trenches with considerable losses. Balfour and I decided to collect every officer and man we could as reinforcement, and towards dark take them up to where I had dumped the guns the night before.
     More and more 1st Life Guards and Leicestershire Yeomanry kept coming in, but up to midday day only three of ours had turned up.
***** No record of Leicester Yeomanry at GHQ Line until ordered to do so.

**** A Sqn of 1st Life Guards retired with whole Regiment of 2nd Life Guards back to GHQ line from approx 6:00 am.
12:30 pm Wallace appeared in our motor, having come over with the letters, parcels, etc. from Wallon-Cappel for men, and he decided to stay and help. Four of the officers of the 1st Life Guards and two Leicestershire Yeoman also turned up, and we collected about 40 men from the stragglers of all regiments. We also sent back a message to Wallon-Cappel for men, and extra rifles and bandoliers.  
3:00 pm Balfour went off to Divisional Headquarters about, leaving me in charge as Staff Captain.    
3:30 pm Another message from Kennedy arrived, enclosing our list of casualties, saying that Balfour and all available officers and men were going up to the trenches as soon as it was dark, and that I was to be left in Balfour's place to take charge of the camp and do his job of Staff Captain.
     Balfour arranged with me about forming up the supply column and getting more ammunition. I went over to the ammunition column and arranged for 100, 000 rounds be dumped at our camp.
Menzie's message stated that our officer losses at Frezenberg Ridge were:

2/Lt. Blofeld ***(The night of the 12th)
Lt. Hobson
Lt. Townsend

Colonel Ferguson *****(Wounded at GHQ Line at 8:30 am after retirement on the morning of the 13th)
Lt. Bethel
Lt. Cuninghame

and about 120 other ranks. later in the evening it transpired that Blofeld had been killed the day before, by a shell bursting in a dugout. Two Leicestershire Yeomanry officers had been killed at the same time . I couldn't hear what the 1st Life Guards had lost, but judging from the stragglers they must have lost heavily.
*** 2 LG War Diary states 109 Casualties, 27 killed and 1 wounded.
255 men from the 2nd Life Guards in total on the front line that day.
6:30 pm Wallace and Balfour and their motley crowd of Life Guards and Yeomanry marched off and I was left to my duties. The new rifles and bandoliers arrived, so I at once armed all the stragglers I could find. These duties and supplies occupied me until dark. **** No record of any Leics Yeo doing this.
7:00 pm I saw to the rations.  
7:30 pm The news from the front seemed better, and I heard counter attacks had been organised. Burkett, the doctor of the Leicestershire Yeomanry, came in about this time, almost in a state of collapse. I fed him and gave him a Brandy and he seemed better. He said that his regiment had lost very heavily, 7 officers killed including the Colonel, Evans-Freke, 4 wounded and about 180 men killed, wounded or missing. *** Major Burkett was over a mile away in Bellewaarde Farm tending to the wounded. LY RAP with 6th Cav Field Amb near 6th Cav Bde HQ and RAP.
8:00 pm I had to scratch meal of some tea and eggs. afterwards settled down on some straw in a corner of the hut to sleep after leaving where I was to be found.
     A tiring, depressing day, very dull, and pouring with fine cold rain all day. The mud began to be beastly.
May 14th
5:00 pm
The Chaplain of our Brigade came along to bury the body of Evans-Freke, the Colonel of the Leicestershire yeomanry, who had been killed the day before*. The ground chosen was a pretty little farm, just off the road, where several others who had died in the adjacent dressing station were also buried.

Foot Note:
* The trenches occupied by A Squadron of the Leicestershire Yeomanry had been in poor condition with little shelter from shellfire. On 13th May this was incessant from 3:30am until 1:00 pm According to the regimental Diary, Lt. Col The Hon P C Evans-Freke placed a detachment about 150 yards in front of A Squadron, and it was while returning from overseeing this he was killed.
**** The Colonel died at approx 6:15 am on the 13th as he was placing men to protect 6th Cav Brigades left flank. There was no support to on the left flank of A Squadron LY by the rest of 7th Cav Brigade therefore the placement of these men.