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Webmatters : Hillyar Hill-Trevor Memorial at Givenchy lès la Bassée
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Lieutenant Hillyar Hill-Trevor

Location

Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée is a village some 27 kilometres north of Arras and about 5 kilometres west of La Bassée, a small town on the N41 road from Béthune to Lille. The monument is situated in the rue de moulin.

From the main Béthune road take the turning into Cuinchy village. Continue over the canal and turn right at the junction where you see the panel directing Guards Cemetery off to your left. At the church in Givenchy (The junction is a: Stop) turn right again. The memorial is on your right at the bottom of the street. Continuing around this road to the right will bring you to the canal and back to the bridge (the pont fixe of the battle for Givenchy).

 

Background

Monument to Hillyar Hill-Trevor

In December 1914 the Indian Corps controlled the southern sector of the British Front from Givenchy northwards to Fromelles (in German hands). In compliance with orders from Field Marshal Sir John French commanding the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) the Indian Divisions had launched a series of actions along their front in mid December but these gained little and rumours suggested that the German sappers had begun tunnelling near Givenchy.

At 0900 hours on 20th December 1914 ten small mines were detonated under the Sirhind Brigade (on the left of Givenchy) and German infantry then assaulted the entire front between there and la Quinque Rue to the east of Festubert.

Givenchy was an important position for the British because, situated on a small mound above the watertable, its loss would allow the Germans an uniterupted view over their positions.

By midday almost the entire Brigade front had been broken and the Indian soldiers had been forced back to a position in front of Festubert.

It was vital that Givenchy was recovered from the enemy and the Jullundur Brigade were brought up to launch a counter attack led by the 1st Bn Manchester Regiment and a company of the 1/4th Bn Suffolk Regiment.

142e Régiment d’Infanterie Territoriale

The third battalion of the regiment were part of the Lahore Division’s reserve together with the 1/4th Bn Suffolk Regiment. (Most French Regiments like their German counterparts had three battalions which served together, unlike British units where battalions usually served seperately).

On the 17th December 1914 one of their companies was attached to the Ferozepore Brigade in order to guard the Pont fixe(the bridge over the canal at Cuinchy).

When the Germans launched their attack the 2nd and remainder of the 3rd Battalions of the 142e RIT were immediately rushed forward to the pont fixe where they arrived at 1300 hours. Capitaine Salle commanding the three remaining companies of the 3rd Battalion took the left flank of the counter attack launched by the 1st Bn Manchester Regiment.

The Manchesters managed to regain the village after hours of house to house combat whilst Capitaine Salle was seriously injured trying to lead his men forward into the trenches previously held by the 129th Baluchis on the left of the Ferozepore Brigade.

It was pitch black, the ground waterlogged and the ground raked by machine gun fire at the slightest movement. Lt Colonel Henry Lemprière commanding a force of his own 7th Dragoon Guards and 47th Sikhs reported that attempting an assault in such conditions would be a waste of lives. He was told to get on with it and one of the lives uselessly wasted was his own.

The Manchesters held the village throughout the night but attempts to advance were met by a violent response. To make matters worse, burning haystacks silhouetted them as soon as they stood up.

Unbeknown to them help was already on its way. During the afternoon the 1st (Guards) Brigade and the 3rd Brigade (of 1st Division in General Haig’s I Corps) had been ordered forward to Béthune reaching the town by the early morning of 21st December.

They were given the morning to rest and then ordered to recapture the lost ground; the Guards to the right of Givenchy and the 3rd Brigade to the left. To the north the 2nd Brigade had been brought up by buses (the famous London double-deckers) and they were tasked with recovering the Orchard on la Quinque Rue which had been lost earlier in the day.

About 1100 hours on the 21st December the Germans put down a forty-five minute bombardment on the Allied front line around Givenchy and then launched another attack against the village. The 142e RIT now under the command of Capitaine Ribes were forced back as were the Manchesters in their turn.

All was quite orderly and a counter attack retook much of the lost ground in the village. By then Capitaine Ribes had also been badly wounded and was replaced by Capitaine Adde who continued to defend the area to the north of the village church.

At 1530 hours another major attack was launched by the Germans who managed to get in through the right flank of the Manchesters and with the aid of their machine guns forced the British out of the village. At this stage of the battle both British and French thought that they were on their own and almost surrounded.

Whilst the 1st Bn Cameron Highlanders advanced into Givenchy as part of the rescue operation the 1st Bn Coldstream Guards was ordered to attack the area to the north of the village in the area of the French. The Guardsmen were immediately subjected to a hail of fire and were brought to a halt.

At 1715 hours Capitaine Adde was approached by an officer of the 1st Bn Scots Guards and was asked to assist in a new counter attack. It would have been during the Scots approach that Lt Hill-Trevor was hit by a piece of shrapnel.

By the time that the Guards reached Givenchy in the dark across the waterlogged ground the Manchesters had already retired from the village believing that they were in danger of being completely surrounded. With the aid of a Company of the 142e RIT (French Territorial Infantry) Givenchy was recovered but it was a messy affair with units losing direction in the dark and exchanging shots with each other.

The Scots casualties in the action were quite light but Lieutenant Hill-Trevor was one of the three men killed. He had only joined the battalion on the 18th December at Borre (a few kilometres away) and died in his first and only battle.

The 1st Bn Manchester Regiment lost 85 dead, whilst the 3/142e RIT had 81 killed and 59 wounded

 

The memorial

Monument to Hillyar Hill-Trevor

For God and Country

Close to this spot sleeps in eternal peace Hillyar George Edwin Hill-Trevor, Lt Scots Guards, beloved only child of the Honorable George Edwyn and Ethel Hill-Trevor. Brinkinalt Chirk England, Killed while gallantly leading his men Dec 21 1914, aged 18 years

He is commemorated on Panel 3 of Le Touret Memorial.

One of his ancestors, Ann Trevor was the mother of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington.

The sculptor is Sir William Reid Dick who provided much of the sculpture on the Menin Gate and was responsible for the Arras Flying Services Memorial. The female figure is a copy of that he used for the Bushey War Memorial in England.

 

The other memorials in this area