Bowlby and Skrine

Location

These two memorials have been relocated to this very neat and tidy area maintained by the CWGC on the Begijnenbosstrasse to the east of Ieper.

They are not very far from the RE Grave at Railway wood which is signposted off the main Menin Road (N8). Continue up past the Cemetery and drive straight across the N37.

A more direct route is to take the Menin Road (N8) out to Hell Fire Corner (which is now a huge roundabout) then take the N37 for just under a kilometre. You will come to the Begijnenbosstrasse crossroads. Turn left (The RE Grave is now on your right).

You will soon see the memorials a hundred metres or so on your right hand side.

From here you can continue up to the St Charles-Potyze Cemetery or go back to the RE Grave Cemetery.

 
Captain Geoffrey Bowlby

Captain Geoffrey Bowlby

Captain of the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) who was killed near this spot on 13th May 1915 whilst leading a counter attack.

He was born in 1883 the son of Mrs Salvin Bowlby, of 56, Lowndes Square, London. His wife being The Hon. Mrs. Geoffrey Bowlby, of Croughton House, Brackley, Northants.

Commemorated on Panel 3 of the Menin Gate

The 2nd Battle of Ypres

The Cavalry in action - in the trenches

At 0330 hours on 13th May 1915 the German guns opened up on the British positions around Hooge. The shelling continued without cease until 1300 hours when it became more intermittent for the remainder of the day.

The evening before the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions had been re-designated the Cavalry Force and they now held the front line between Bellewaarde and slightly to the north of the village of Wieltje. Each Division consisted of 3 Brigades containing 3 Cavalry Regiments each. A Cavalry Brigade mustered about 900 officers and men.

3rd Cavalry Division were on the right of the line immediately above Hooge and the 1st on their immediate left, with 4th Infantry Division to their left.

The shelling of the Cavalry Lines was particularly fierce between Hooge and the Sint-Juliaan Road. On a modern map (see my own sketch) between the N8 and the N313.

At 0800 hours the Germans managed to punch a hole in the hastily created trench system and started pushing the Leicestershire Yeomanry of 7th Cavalry Brigade backwards. Two of their squadrons were dislodged but the third in the support trenches held firm.

Elsewhere to the north in 4th Division's lines there had been a few gaps created but these had been swiftly plugged. In the case of the 2nd Essex they were forced to advance over 500 metres across open ground losing 180 casualties.

The Germans continued to press the line but it was only in the area of the 7th Cavalry Brigade that any serious damage had been done. Under the intense bombardment communications were as always proving difficult and initially Command did not realise that the Leicestershire Yeomanry were managing to hang on with the aid of the North Somerset Yeomanry on their right and the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) on their left.

A counter attack was organised using the 8th and 9th Cavalry Brigades. Captain Bowlby's Royal Horse Guards were part of the 8th Cavalry Brigade.

At 1430 hours after a short preliminary bombardment the counter attack began in the face of very heavy shrapnel and rifle fire. Although the British managed to regain their front lines they found them untenable. The weight of enemy shelling was simply too great.

It was thus decided to fall back to a line which ran from Railway Wood to the north where it met up with the old trench system again.

The line had been held but the cost to 3rd Cavalry Division had been high with 226 men killed and 827 wounded.

 
Captain Henry Skrine

Captain Henry Skrine

Captain of the 6th Bn Somerset Light Infantry who fell in action and was buried close to this spot on 25th September 1915.

The memorial is also dedicated to the men of his company who fell with him.

Commemorated on Panel 21 of the Menin Gate

2nd attack on Bellewaarde

25th September 1915

On 25th September 1915 the Battle for Loos was begun in the north of France. This had been planned as a massive set piece action by the British who would use gas for the first time (So much for Allied condemnation of the Germans for having used it only six months earlier).

The Battle of Loos The Battle of Loos

As part of a number of feints elsewhere it had been decided that V Corps in Belgium would launch an attack on the Bellewaarde Ridge at Hooge.

It could perhaps be said that this was not a serious attempt to break the German line. Artillery ammunition was limited as the guns at Loos were in the middle of the heaviest bombardment they had ever put down. In addition there would be no reserves available.

But, the commanders thought, it might distract the enemy and who knows it just might succeed and we could gain more ground than we were expecting.

With the attack at Loos ready to be launched at 0630 hours, Zero Hour at Bellewaarde was set at 0420 hours.

Zero was marked by the detonation of two pairs of mines under the German positions to the north of Hooge.

Along the main road 3rd Division made some progress, quickly gaining the German front line, but that would be as far as they got as German artillery pinned them down.

To the north on Bellewaarde Ridge the 14th Light Division also made good progress and in some places reached the German support trenches. Attempts, though, to try and bomb their way towards other sections of the trenches to complete the success were thwarted by the severity of the German counter attack.

By evening the only gain had been one of the craters created that morning.

The Official History states:

...subsidiary attacks had thus ended with the assaulting troops back in their original trenches, mainly because the British hand-grenades were inferior in both quality and number to those of the enemy. No German reinforcements other than their local supports had been required to meet them and therefore had not the desired influence on the main battle south of the La Bassée canal.

 

RE Grave, Railway Wood RE Grave, Railway Wood
The Menin Gate The Menin Gate
Ieper Town Ieper Town
2nd Battle of Ypres 2nd Battle of Ypres