2nd November 1914
Ploegsteert Wood. later anglicised to Plugstreet, is a large wood between Armentières in the south and Messines in the north. It held some strategic value in enclosing Hill 63, a rare high point which offered the British a toehold in targeting the Messines ridge to the north which had just fallen to the enemy.
On the morning of the 2nd November 1914, the British 4th Division held a thin twelve miles of front including a line of three villages along the eastern edge of the woods: La Gheer, Le Péverin and St Yves. The Germans were attacking all along the line from here to Ypres in the north. Their overwhelming superiority of both numbers and firepower was destroying the cream of the British Army. There were only so many last gasp charges the BEF could make.
At 2pm the Dorsets moved into position on a road junction along from the Petit Pont. They then withdrew westwards 2 hours later to cook a meal. At 6pm A Company moved into prepared trenches, further east into the wood. B and D Companies, meanwhile, began to dig trenches along the line of the Ploegsteert – Messines Road, south of a château, which I think was probably Chateau du Mont de la Hutte. It’s now ruins. Without the 1914 map referenced by the Dorsets’ war diary, it’s impossible to know exactly where they were but I’ve marked the rough locations for now.
There’s a 1915 sketch of the château available on the Imperial War Museum reproduced below.
Chateau de la Hutte between Messines and Ploegsteert; The Forward Estaminet, Messines Road© IWM (Art.IWM ART 4802)