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Part 5 ....
In the light of subsequent knowledge it is clear that the stand made here by Lt.-Colonel Ransome's force was of the greatest value not only to the rest of the brigade, but to the whole line in this vicinity. . . This stand was due in the first place to the skill and foresight of Lt.-Colonel Ransome in establishing a line outside the wood on which the withdrawing troops, scattered and dis_organized by the confused fighting in the wood, could be rallied and reorganized. In the latter part of the work Lt.-Colonel Ransome was assisted princi_pally by Major Tortise and Captain Snell of the 7th Queen's, and by Captain Black and Lieut. Howcroft of his own battalion. All these officers behaved with the utmost gallantry."
About 6 o'clock a French battalion which had come up behind the English party during the afternoon essayed a frontal counter-attack. There was no artillery preparation. The attempt was beyond praise as regards the gallantry of the soldiers who made it, but the brave Frenchmen were met with a perfect storm of machine gun bullets and they could not go on. After lying down for a few moments they got up and retired, and the retirement took the whole of the English first line troops with it. This was by no means a misfortune. Anxiety had been felt already about the possibility of holding the position till nightfall, but it seemed to be suicidal to attempt to retire before the German machine guns by daylight. However, fortunately these ceased fire as the hostile infantry came forward to pursue, and so our retirement was far less costly than could have been expected. It was a very mixed lot of men that went back through Rouez Wood. Frenchmen and all sorts of English units mixed up in great confusion as regards their ranks. A fresh line was formed inside the wood and Captain Black actually led a small party for_ward to check the pursuit, which prevented any great pressure before darkness set in, and the fugitives were able to collect, reorganize and march back to Villiguier Aumont. During this final phase Sgt. Browne and Pte. Coleman, two signallers who had greatly distinguished themselves on the 21st by mending the line from " Clarence " to the Fort under quite extraordinary difficulties and heavy shell fire, were wounded.
The march to Villeguier was without incident, though it was thought by some that the party was sur_rounded. On arrival, the details belonging to the 55th Brigade were directed on to Bethancourt, where Br.-General Wood, commanding, already was, as was also the 8th East Surrey Regiment. About 10 a.m. on the 24th March the 55th Brigade was ordered to withdraw to a line approximately east of Calomel; here it had the 53rd on its right flank and the 54th Brigade on the left. The Buffs, who were the supporting battalion of their brigade at first that night, withdrew later into divisional support, and at 7 a.m. on the 25th the whole division fell back to the line Grandru-Mondescourt_-Appilly and later to a position covering Baboeuf, these retrograde movements being carried out in good and soldier like order by platoons in artillery formation. At 2 p.m. on this day the Buffs were sent back to a position west of Baboeuf, to cover the canal bridge at Varesnes, and later to Varesnes itself, which was reached at 10 p.m. On the 26th March the whole of the 55th Brigade marched to Caisnes. The casualties suffered by the 7th Buffs between the 21st and 26th March amounted to :—Officers : killed, 1; wounded, 5; miss_ing, 11. Other ranks : killed, 17; wounded, 108; miss_ing, 410. When a force has to retire after fighting, it is generally quite unknown whether a man who fails to answer his name afterwards is dead or a prisoner of war. He is simply described as missing.
There are no photographs of him that I’m aware of
Wow Mick! thank you so much for the amazing reply. I've printed it as I know others in my family will be fascinated to read the account. I didn't know what battle and quite where, so this has filled in some massive gaps.
I hadn't been able to find out any information on where Philip worked and who for prior to WW1 so thank you for including that. Interesting to note when he went into hospital in 1939 he gave his profession then as chauffeur, he was by then living in Watford so not sure who he would have worked for then.
My search still goes on to find where he is buried but this is an amazing account of his time during the war which I've not seen before. Thank you so much.
A shame there are no pictures, hoping if there wasn't one of him alone maybe there would be one of the battalion.