2nd Life Guards, 7th Cav Bde, 3rd Cav Div: 12th - 14th May 1915
Sir Morgan Crofton, Signalling Officer, 2nd LG.
|Hour, date, Place
of Events and Information
||Remarks and references to
Dug Out SE of BREILIN
day. Orders were received that we were to go into the
trenches tonight, to relieve part of the 27th Infantry
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.
||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.
||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.
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
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
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
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
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.
||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.
||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.
||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
|Near Front Line
Back to YPRES
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
||I burrowed into
my dugout in the straw feeling very tired.
|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.
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
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
off to Divisional Headquarters about, leaving me in
charge as Staff Captain.
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)
Colonel Ferguson *****(Wounded at GHQ Line at 8:30 am
after retirement on the morning of the 13th)
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.
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.
||I saw to the
||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
||*** 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.
||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.
|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
* 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
|**** 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.