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.

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.

Up periscope

12th January 1915

The clipped “situation unchanged” in the Dorsets’ diary sounds like a British Rail announcement and described, with economy, another day of monotony in the trenches.

The Dorsets’ Captain Partridge features in the 15th Brigade’s diary entry for today. He’s been busy with an unnamed Royal Artillery officer, sending intelligence back to Brigade HQ. Major General Thomas Morland’s report for the 5th Division bears this activity out the following day, with the line “observations from front trenches show the great value of powerful periscope binoculars.” Presumably Partridge was using something like this through which to observe the enemy lines:

Image showing Captain J C Scott, 2nd A & SH. using box periscope with binoculars. Rue de Bois, February 1915
Using box periscope with binoculars. Rue de Bois, February 1915. Captain J C Scott, 2nd A & SH. Image from Imperial War Museum website.

One Dorset man died today, according to the CWGC: His name was Francis James Harwood and he was 34. Intriguingly, he served under the surname of Westlake. He’s listed as having been killed in action in the medal rolls. There’s also evidence that he served with the Somerset Light Infantry, which makes some sense as he was born in Bridgewater, Somerset. Quite why he’d transferred to the Dorsets is a mystery. It requires more time, and I have run out of minutes in the day, so I will leave poor Francis James alone and return to him another time perhaps.