Canadian Expeditionary Force, history, Canada, Ca, Can, Canadian, World War 1, WWI, WW1, First World War, 1916-1918
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CANADA IN FLANDERS
By SIR MAX AITKEN, M.P.

THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
VOLUME I.

CHAPTER VII

GIVENCHY

Minor engagements-A sanguinary battle-Attacks on "Stony
.....Mountain" and "Dorchester "-Disposition of Canadian
.....troops-An enemy bombardment-" Duck's Bill "-A
.....mine mishap-" Dorchester" taken-A bombing party-
.....Coy.-Sergt.-Major Owen's bravery-Lieut. Campbell
.....mounts machine-gun on Private Vincent's back-How
.....Private Smith replenished the bombers-Fighting the
.....enemy with bricks-British Division unable to advance-
.....Canadians hang on-" 1 can crawl "-General Mercer's
.....leadership-Private Clark's gallantry-Dominion Day.

"Of fifteen hundred Englishmen,
Went home but fifty~three;
The rest were slain in Chevy-Chace,
Under the greenwood tree."
OLD SCOTCH BALLAD.


   BETWEEN the close of the battle of Festubert, on
May 26th, and the beginning of the great conflict at
Loos, on September 25th, there was a scenes of
minor engagements along the whole British front, in
which Givenchy stands out as another red milestone
on Canada's road to glory.
   The brief mention of Givenchy in the official
despatch in which Sir John French reviewed the
operations of the British Army between Festubert
and Loos, conveys no idea of the desperate fury or
the scope of the fighting in which the Canadians
again did all, and more than all, that was asked of
them.
130
CANADA IN FLANDERS

Index

I
Mobilisation


II
Warfare


III
Neuve Chapelle


IV
Ypres


V
A Wave of Battle


VI
Festubert


VII
Givenchy


VIII
Princess Patricia's Light Infantry


IX
The Prime Minister


X
The Canadian Corps


Appendix I
The King's Message to the Canadians


Appendix II
Canadians in Despatches


Appendix III
The Prime Minister and the War


Appendix IV
Lieut.-General E.A.H. Alderson, C.B., Commanding the Canadian Corps


Appendix V
Honours and Awards Granted


Appendix VI
Statement of Casualties




GIVENCHY................131

 
   That in the end they were forced to fall back from
the fortified positions they had won with so much
heroism and at so much cost, was due to difficulties
in other portions of the field, which prevented the
7th British Division from coming up in time.
   Givenchy may appear but an incident in a long chain
of operations when one is taking a bird's~eye view of
the campaign on the Western Front as a whole, but
it was in reality a very considerable and sanguinary
battle, the story of  which should appeal to every
Canadian heart.
   The 7th British Division had been directed to
make a frontal attack on a fortified place in the
enemy's entrenched position known to our troops as
"Stony Mountain," and the 1st Canadian (Ontario)
Battalion commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Hill, of
the 1st Brigade, was detailed to secure the right
flank of the Britisb Division by seizing two lines of
German trenches extending from "Stony Mountain"
150 yards south to another fortified point known to
us as "Dorchester." Working parties from the 2nd
and  3rd Canadian Battalions were detailed to secure
the lines of trenches taken by the 1st Battalion, to
connect these with our trenches, and finally to form
the densive flank wherever it might be required.
   After a few days of preparation the 1st Canadian
Battalion (Ontario Regiment) moved up, and at three
o'clock on the afternoon of June 15th, the Battalion
reached  our line of trenches opposite the position
to be attacked, when the 2nd Canadian Battalion
under  Lieut.-Colonel Watson, which was holding the
trench position, withdrew to the right to make room
for them.
   The trench line on the right of the attacking Batta-
         
132...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

         

lion was held by the 2nd and 4th Canadian Battalion
as far as the La Bassée Canal, with the 3rd Canadian
Toronto Regiment in support.  The left was held
by the East Yorks.
  From three o'clock until six in the evening, the
Ontario Regiment awaited the command to charge,
and sung their chosen songs-all popular but all





132...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
unprintable.  The enemy bombarded our position
heartily, though our artillery had the better of them.
 Fifteen minutes before the attack was timed to take
place, two 18-pounder guns, which had been placed
in the infantry trenches under the cover of dark-
ness on the instructions of Brigadier-General Bur-
stall, opened fire upon the parapets of the enemy
         
         


GIVENCHY...............133


trenches. One gun, under Lieut. C. S. Craig, fired
over 100 rounds, sweeping the ground clear of wire
and destroying two machine-guns. Lieut Craig who
was wounded at Ypres early in May and again while
serving near Givenchy, was seriously wounded
after completing his task here. Lieut. L. S. Kelly
who was in command of the other gun, succeeded in
destroying  a machine-gun, when his own gun was
wrecked by an enemy shell, and he was wounded.
The gun shields themselves were tattered and twisted
like paper by the mere force of musketry fire.1


1On June 12th the 4th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, com-
manded by Major Geo. H. Ralston, received orders to place two
guns in our front-line trench, at "Duck's Bill," and to have
them dug in and protected by sandbags by the morning of the
15th. The German trench was only 75 yards away at this point
and the purpose of the two guns was to cut wire, level parapets;
destroy machine-gun emplacements on a front of 200 yards

The positions for the field guns in our trench were ready by
the night of the 14th, and at 9.30 of the same night the two guns
their wheels muffled with old motor tyres, left the battery's
position near the canal, and, in charge of Captain Stockwell and
Sergeant~Major Kerry, passed through Givenchy. At this point
the horses were unhooked, and the guns were hauled to their
places in our front-line trench by hand. Shells were also drawn
in by hand, in small arrnoured wagons. The guns were protected
by one-quarter~inch armour plate, and their crews remained with
them throughout the night.

The Right Section gun was commanded by Lieut. C. S. Craig,
Sergeant Miller as No. 1 and the left section gun by
Lieut. L. S. Kelly, with Sergeant E.G. MacDougall as No. 1.

On the afternoon of the 15th, the batteries~of the Division com-
menced firing on certain selected points of the enemy's front At
5.45 the infantry, working to the minute on advance orders
knocked down our parapet in front of the two entrenched guns'
and so uncovered their field of fire. The guns opened fire in-
stantly on the German position, and by six o'clock had disposed
of six machine-gun emplacements, levelled the German parapets
and cut the wire to pieces. Our infantry attacked immediately
after the firing of the last shot, and just as the German batteries
began to range on our two guns. A shell burst over and behind
the Right Section gun, killing three of its crew and wounding
Lieut. Craig and Corporal King, who died of his wounds. Lieut.




134...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
           
   Just before six o'clock a mine, previously prepared
by the sappers, was exploded. Owing to the dis-
covery of water under the German trenches, its tunnel
could not be carried far enough forward, and the
Canadian troops had accordingly been withdrawn
from a salient in the Canadian line, known as
"Duck's Bill," to guard against casualties in our own
trenches, when it went off. However, to make sure
that the explosion would reach the German line, so
heavy a charge had to be used that the effects upon
the Canadian trench line were somewhat serious.
Several of our own bombers were killed and
wounded, and a reserve depot of bombs was buried
under the débris. Another bomb-depôt was blown
up by an enemy shell about this time. These two
accidents made us short of bombs when we needed
them later on, and we had to rely entirely on the
supply of bombs which the bombers carried them-
selves.
   Lieut.-Colonel Beecher, second in command, who
escaped injury from the first explosion in our trench,
was killed by a splinter from a high explosive shell
at this moment.
  The leading company, under Major G. J. L.
Smith, rushed forward, with the smoke and flying
dirt of the mine explosion for a screen, and met
a withering fire from the German machine-guns
placed in "Stony Mountain." But their dash was


Kelly was wounded a few minutes later. Sergeant MacDougall
found Lieut. Craig lying helpless among the dead and wounded,
and carried him back to a dressing station. Later, the Right
Section gun was smashed by a direct hit

Sergeant MacDougall, who comes from Moncton, New Bruns-
wick, and is a graduate of M~ill University in Electrical En-
gineering, again did valuable work on the following night in
removing the two guns from the trench beck to safety.




GIVENCHY. ...............135
irresistible, and almost immediately the company
was in possession of the German front trench and
"Dorchester ",- but those who were opposite to
"Stony Mountain" were stopped by fire from that
fort, all being killed or wounded.
   The leading company was followed by bombing
parties on the right and left flanks, and by a blocking
party of eight sappers of the 1st Field Company
Canadian Engineers. Lieut. C. A. James, who was
in charge of the right bombing patty, was killed at
the time of the explosion of the mine. Those who
remained advanced without a leader. Lieut G. N.
Gordon, in charge of the bomb party on the left,
advanced in the direction of "Stony Mountain,"
but his bombers were almost all shot down. A few
reached the first-line trench, including Lieut.
Gordon. He was soon wounded, and was afterwards
killed by a German bomb party while lying in the
German first-line trench with two other comrades
who had exhausted their supply of bombs. They
were almost the only survivors of the bombing
party.  The members of the blocking party,
too, had all been killed or wounded, save
Sapper Harmon, who, being unable to follow
his vocation single-handed, loaded himself with
bombs which he hurriedly collected from the dead
and dying and wounded bombers and set out to
bomb his way along the trench alone. He retired,
with ten bullet wounds in his body, only after he
had thrown his last bomb.
   The second company, under Captain G. L.
Wilkinson, at once followed the leading company
and the bombers, and both companies charged for-
ward to the second-line trench, where the enemy




136...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
presented a firm front, although stragglers were
retreating through the tall grass in the rear. The
bombers went to work from right to left to clear the
trench. Many resisting Germans were bayoneted,
and some prisoners were taken and sent back, and
later, with some of their escort, were killed by
machine-gun and rifle fire from "Stony Mountain
itself.
   Captain Wilkinson's company was followed
almost immediately by the third company under
Lieut. T. C. Sims, as the other company officers,
Captain F. W. Robinson and Lieut. P. W.
Pick, had been killed by a shell at the moment
our mine blew up.  This company began to con-
solidate the first-line German trench which had been
captured~that is to say, it reversed the sandbag
parapet and turned the trench facing enemy-wards.
It had suffered heavily in its advance across the
open space between the opposing lines, and Cap-
tain Delamere's company was the fourth sent forward
to support. Captain Delamere had been wounded
and the command devolved upon Lieut. J. C. L.
Young, who was wounded at our parapet.  Lieut.
Tranter took command, and was killed in a moment.
Company-Sergeant-Major Owen then assumed com-
mand, and led the company with bravery and good
sense.
   Lieut. F. W. Campbell, with two machine-guns,
had advanced in the rear of Captain Wilkinson's
company. The entire crew of one gun was killed
or wounded in the advance, but a portion of the
other crew gained the enemy's front trench, and
then advanced along the trench in the direction of
"Stony Mountain." The advance was most diffi-




GIVENCHY................137
cult, and, although subjected to constant heavy rifle
and machine-gun fire, the bombers led the way
until further advance was impossible owing to a
barricade across the trench which had been hurriedly
erectedd by the enemy. The bomb and the machine-
gun bear the brunt of the day's work more and more
as time goes on, till one almost begins to think that
the rifle may come to be superseded by the shot-gun.
The machine-gun crew which reached the trench was
reduced to Lieut. Campbell and Private Vincent (a
lumberjack from Bracebridge, Ontario), the machine-
gun and the tripod.  In default of a base, Lieut.
Campbell set up the machine-gun on the broad back
of Private Vincent and fired continuously. After-
wards, during the retreat, German bombers entered
the trench, and Lieut. Campbell fell wounded.
Private Vincent then cut away the cartridge belt,
and, abandoning the tripod, dragged the gun away
to safety because it was too hot to handle. Lieut.
Campbell crawled out of the enemy trench, and was
carried into our trench in a dying condition by
Company-Sergeant-Major Owen. In the words of
Kinglake, "And no man died that night with
more glory, yet many died and there was much
glory."
   The working parties detailed for the construction
of the line adjoining our trenches with the hostile
line which had been captured, moved out according
to arrangement, but the heavy machine-gun fire from
"Stony Mountain" forced them back to the cover
of our trench, and all further attempts to continue
work while daylight lasted came to nothing.  The
efforts of the Battalion were now confined to erecting
barricades just south of "Stony Mountain" and north




138............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.


of "Dorchester," and to holding the second-line
trench.
 The supply of bombs ran short, and Private
Smith, of Southampton, Ontario, son of a Methodist
Minister, and not much more than nineteen, was
almost the only source of replenishment. He was
till Armageddon, a student at the Listowell Bus~-
ness College. History relates he was singing the
trench version of "I wonder how the old folks are
at home," when the mine exploded and he was
buried. By the time he had dug himself out he dis-
covered that all his world, including his rifle, had
disappeared.  But his business training told him
that there was an active demand for bombs for the
German trenches a few score yards away.   So
rivate Smith festooned himself with bombs from
dead and wounded bomb-throwers around him, and
set out, mainly on all-fours, to supply that demand.
He did it five times. He was not himself a bomb-
thrower but a mere middleman. Twice he went up
to the trenches and handed over his load to the busy
men. Thrice, so hot was the fire, that he had to lie
down and toss the bombs (they do not explode till
the safety pin is withdrawn) into the trench to the
men who needed them most.  His clothes were
literally shot into rags and ravels, but he himself
was untouched in all his hazardous speculations, and
he explains his escape by saying, "I kept moving."
   So through all these hells the spirit of man
endured and rejoiced, indomitable.
   But, after all, the supply of bombs ran out, and
the casualties resulting from heavy machine-gun and
rifle fire from "Stony Mountain" considerably in-
creased the difficulties of holding the line. The
         




GIVENCHY ...............139


bombers could fight no more.  One unknown
wounded man was seen standing on the parapet of
the German front-line trench. He had thrown every
bomb he carried, and, weeping with rage, continued
to hurl bricks and stones at the advancing enemy
til his end came.
   Every effort was made to clear out the wounded,
and reinforcements from the 3rd Battalion were sent
forward.1  But still no work could be done, and a
further supply of bombs was not yet available.
Bombs were absolutely necessary.  At one point
four volunteers who went to get more were killed,
one after the other; upon that, Sergeant Kranz,
of London, England, by way of Vermillion,
Alberta, and at one time a private of the Argyll and
Sutherland Regiment, went back, and, fortunately,
returned with a load. He was followed by Sergeant
Newell, a cheese-maker from Watford, near Sarnia,
and Sergeant-Major Cuddy, a druggist from Strath-
roy.  Gradually our men in the second German line
were forced back along the German communication
trench and the loss of practically all of our officers
hampered the fight. The volunteers who were bring-
ing forward a supply of bombs were nearly all killed,
and the supply died out with them.
   The British Division had been unable to advance
on the left owing to the strength of the fortified
position at "Stony Mountain," and the German line
north of that fort.  The Canadians held their
ground, however, hoping for the ultimate success


1 The 3rd (Toronto) Battalion has now only five of its original
officers serving with it; 85 officers have been on the strength of
the Battalion at one time and another since its organisation.
Of other ranks, about 240 of the original members of the Battalion
are still with it.




140...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


of the attack on the left, in the face of heavy pres-
sure on their exposed left flank.
  The enemy meanwhile had been accumulating
strong forces, and finally, at about half-past nine, the
remnants of the Battalion were forced to evacuate
all the ground that had been gained. The with-
drawal was conducted with deliberation, through a
hail of bullets, but it cost us heavily.
  One splendid incident among many may perhaps
explain the reason.  Private Gledhill is eighteen
years of age. His grandfather owns a woollen mill
in Ben Miller, near Goderich, Ontario. Ben Miller
was, till lately, celebrated as the home of the fattest
man in the world, for there lived Mr. Jonathan
Miller, who weighed 400 lbs., and moved about in a
special carriage of his own.  Private Gledhill,
destined perhaps to confer fresh fame on Ben Miller,
saw Germans advancing down the trench; saw also
that only three Canadians were left in the trench,
two with the machine-gun, and himself, as he said,
"running a rifle." Before he had time to observe
more, an invader's bomb most literally gave him a
lift home, and landed him uninjured outside the
trench with his rifle broken. He found another rifle
and fired awhile from the knee till it became neces-
sary to join the retreat.  During that manoeuvre,
which required caution, he fell over Lieut. Brown
wounded, and offered to convoy him home.
"Thanks, no," said the lieutenant, "I can crawl."
Then Private Frank Ullock, late a livery stable
keeper at Chatham, New Brunswick, but now with
one leg missing, said, " Will you take me?" " Sure,"
replied Gledhill. But Frank Ullock is a heavy man
and could not well be lifted. So Gledhill got down




GIVENCHY................141


on hands and knees, and Ullock took good hold of
his web equipment and was hauled gingerly along
the ground towards the home trench.  Presently
Gledhhill left Ullock under some cover while he
crawled forward, cut a strand of wire from our en-
tanglements and threw the looped end back, lassoo
fashion, to Ullock, who wrapped it round his body.
Gledhill then hauled him to the parapet, where the
stretcher-bearers came out and took charge.  All
this, of course, from first to last and at every pace,
under a tempest of fire. It is pleasant to think that
Frank Ullock fell to the charge of Dr. Murray Mac-
laren, also of New Brunswick, who watched over
him with tender care in a hospital under canvas, of
1, 080 beds-a hospital that is larger than the
General, the Royal Victoria, and the Western of
Montreal combined. Gledhill was not touched, and
in spite of his experiences prefers life at the front to
work in his grandfather's woollen mills at Ben
Miller, near Goderich, Ontario.
   Out of twenty-three combatant officers who went
into this action only three missed death or wounding.
They are Colonel Hill, who fought his men to the
bitter end with high judgment and courage; Lieut.
S.A. Creighton and Lieut. now Captain) T. C.
Sims, who did their work soldierly and well.
    Although the whole plan of attack was prepared
by the Corps Commander, the operations of the 1st
Canadian Battalion (Ontario Regiment) were bril-
liantly directed by General Mercer, who commanded
the Brigade.  He is a man of mature years, a philo-
sopher by nature and a lawyer by profession, always
calm and even-tempered, and not given to too many
words.      
         


142...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


   For twenty-five years he took an active part in
Canadian Militia affairs, and the 2nd Queen's Own
of Toronto held him in high esteem as their Com-
manding Officer.
   As a soldier, in the face of the enemy, he has
gained vast experience since he set foot in France.
But, in addition, he has the inestimable possession
of shrewd common sense, great courage, and an
instinctive knowledge of military operations. There
can be no finer tribute to his personality than the
respect and affection of the men about him.
  On the day following the attack, a wounded man
was seen lying in the open between the British and
the German lines. Lance-Corporal E. A. Barrett,
of the 4th Battalion, and at one time the steward of
the Edmonton Club, at once went out in broad day
light under heavy shell and rifle fire and brought the
wounded man in.
  Two days later, on the 18th, Private G. F. Clark.
of the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), displayed
even greater coolness and daring.
  About midday, in the neighbourhood of "Duck's
Bill," Lieut. E. H. Houghton, of Winnipeg, machine-
gun officer of the 8th Battalion, saw a wounded British
soldier lying near the German trench. As soon as
dusk fell he and Private Clark, of the machine-gun
section, dug a hole in the parapet, through which
Clark went out and brought in the wounded man,
who proved to be a private of the East Yorks. The
trenches at this point were only thirty-five yards
apart. Private Clark had received a bullet through
his cap during his rescue of the wounded English-
man, but he crawled through the hole in the parapet
again and went after a Canadian machine-gun which
   






GIVENCHY................143


had been abandoned within a few yards of the
German trench during the recent attack. He brought
the gun safely into our trench, and the tripod to
within a few feet of our parapet. He wished to keep
the gun to add to the battery of his own section, but
the General Officer Commanding ruled that it was
to be returned to its original battalion, and promised
Clark something in its place which he would find
less awkward to carry. Private Clark comes from
Port Arthur, Ontario, and, before the war, earned his
living by working in the lumber-woods.
   After several days of heavy artillery fire our troops
were relieved and the Headquarters moved to the
north.  Here a trench line was taken over from a
British Division.
  When Dominion Day came they remembered with
pride that they were the Army of a Nation, and
those who were in the trenches displayed the
Dominion flag, decorated with the flowers of France,
to the annoyance of the barbarians, who riddled it
with bullets. Behind the lines the Day was cele-
brated with sports and games, while the pipers of the
Scottish Canadian Battalions played a "selection of
National Airs."
   But the shouting baseball teams and minstrel
shows, with their outrageous personal allusions, the
skirl of the pipes and the choruses of the well-known
ragtimes, moved men to the depths of their souls.
For this was the first Dominion Day that Canada
had spent with the red sword in her hand.


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Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:51:32 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001