Belgian chocs away

8th February 1915

The 15th Brigade fumbled around in cold windy weather looking for the parade ground assigned to them for inspection by the King of the Belgians. Eventually they found it in a field opposite the Lunatic Asylum, which was now host to an aerodrome for 6 Squadron RFC, the second to be established in Bailleul. Most of the brigade fitted inside the field but the poor 6 Bn Cheshires, ever the bridesmaids, were made to wait in the adjoining road.

The King of Belgium inspected the brigade at 11.23am. The diary says “Royal salute & inspections & presenting officers. Went off well.” Whether that was a Royal gun salute (I doubt it) or that King Albert saluted the troops (more likely) it doesn’t say. British Army, Corps and Divisional Commanders were all present for the parade. That would have been General Sir Smith-Dorrien (2nd Army), General Sir Fergusson (II Corps) and Major General Morland (5th Division) respectively.

And so we move into a week I’ve been dreading for some time. It’s been a slog at times, but it’s been fun most of the time, but my six months of daily post writing ends this week. Please be sure to check my posts this week as, weather permitting, I am going to be reporting live from my warm billets in Ypres on Wednesday and Thursday, hopefully nursing a decent Belgian beer and plates of cheese and salami.

Humdrum day

27th January 1915

The Dorsets enjoyed a quiet night, apart from a “burst of fire at 4am”. In the morning, some of the Bedfords came under the Dorset’s command, allowing most of D Company to move to the Battalion’s HQ, which was in a farm nearby.

II Corps O.C. Lieutenant General Sir Charles Fergusson visited the sector at 6pm, but other than that it was a fairly humdrum day spent making more improvements to the trenches.


My name is Blücher


24th January 1915

The Dorsets marched, with the rest of the 15th Brigade, back to Wulverghem, back to the trenches. On the way they were inspected by Major General Morland and General Sir Charles Fergusson. The Dorsets, 1st Cheshires and half of the 6th Cheshires went into the front line. The rest: The Norfolks, Bedfords and the rest of the 6th Cheshires remained in Dranoutre in reserve. The 15th Brigade’s diary even tells us that the Dorsets went into trench 10. The Dorsets’ diary tell us nothing more than there were no casualties. I will draw these new trench maps soon, I promise.

With Tom’s injury in mind today’s date is the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Dogger Bank. This engagement, between British and German squadrons, ended with the German Cruiser, SMS Blücher, at the bottom of the North Sea. It was a shot in the arm for the Royal Navy but, although they didn’t learn from their mistakes unlike the Germans, the British continued to dominate the North Sea.

A dot ball for the Dorsets

21st January 1915

The Dorsets remained in Bailleul for another day, preparing themselves for an inspection by “A Corps Commander”, according to the 15th Brigade’s records. I’m pretty sure this means the OC for II Corps, Sir Charles Fergusson (perhaps A means Army).

If you remember, Fergusson had been booted out from leading 5th Division by General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, after the furore at La Bassée. But he came back in January as CO of II Corps underneath his old boss, Smith-Dorrien, who was in command of the newly-formed Second Army.

A thin rain fell throughout the day. Up at the frontline the two sides continued to take sporadic pot shots at one another with their artillery, as the waters, once again,  began to rise .

Ready to march but where?

20th August 1914, Ors, France

The Dorsets remained in Ors for another day. At 1pm the battalion received verbal orders from Brigadier-General Gleichen that they would be marching tomorrow. This was seen as a chance to get the reservists, those who had been recalled to the ranks since war was declared, up to speed. Brigadier-General Hussey, in his book “The Fifth Division in the Great War ” (1921), counts themselves lucky that they got to practice a “peace march”. It was the first time the 5th Division had moved together as a unit.

Earlier in the morning, the battalion had been paraded and spoken to by the commander of the 5th Division, Sir Charles Fergusson. He, according to Gleichen, spoke about the Germans, their “machine guns and their method of attack in large numbers”. But the truth was that no one really knew where they were in the grand scheme of things. They knew that the British I Corps was to the east, but as to the whereabouts of the Germans, or even the French, nothing was known.