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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 8:35:59 AM
The Battle of Arras in April of 1917 has not been judged a grand success by historians. Other than the capture of Vimy Ridge, there was not a lot to point to as a great victory.

But British troops of the 1st and 3rd armies did push forward and they did prevent the Germans from counter attacking and regaining what little ground had been won.

Monchy-Le-Preux had been captured by the British 37th division.

I wanted to highlight the work of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the British Essex Regiment at the Battle of Monchy-Le-Preux.

The Newfoundlanders are best known as the regiment that was slaughtered at Beaumont-Hamel during the Battle of the Somme. Only 68 men answered the roll in the morning after the battle.

At Monchy, this regiment of the Dominion of Newfoundland, not part of Canada, was once again destroyed as were the Essex men on April 14, 1917.

The plan had been altered so that only these two regiments made the attack. The original plan called for more troops.


The attack plan was for the Essex and the Newfoundlanders to advance and seize the German positions in front of the village of Monchy-Le-Preux.

Apparently unknown to British HQ was that the Germans were massing in front of Monchy for their own attack.

But the British beat them to the punch but with a much smaller force. They attacked first.

The Essex and the Newfoundlanders advanced under a creeping barrage. They advanced and took their first objectives and then the Germans counter attacked in numbers that surprised the British forces.

The Germans had been employing an "elastic defence" strategy so that the British troops were able to seize their objectives initially. So there they were, stuck out in a small salient and suddenly had Germans on all threes sides.

Communications were cut and HQ had no idea of what was going on.

The Monchy Nine

Lt. Col. Forbes Robertson, a British officer of the Royal Newfoundlanders who would win the VC later in the war sent out a man to find out what was going on. This officer returned and said that there were no troops left to fight. There were dead Essex and Newfoundlanders all over the battle field.

Robertson was advised that about 300 Germans were advancing on Monchy which was largely undefended at this point.

Robertson decided that a diversion was needed and he cobbled together about 20 HQ men including runners and signal men.

Leading from the front and taking shell fire and small arms fire, he and these men ran forward and occupied a small hedge and trench system. They scavenged weapons and ammunition from dead British soldiers.

By this time there were only 9 Newfoundlanders left and several hundred Germans in front of them.

For several hours, the rapid fire and accurate fire of the Newfoundlanders kept the Germans at bay. The Germans could have come at them at any time but they were fooled by the rapid fire and were taking heavy losses.

They occupied this position for 9 hours until relieved. The 9 were joined by one man from the Essex regiment. For 4 of the 9 hours, they were on their own and fooled the Germans into believing that they faced a much larger force.

This action allowed the British to bring up reinforcements and to save the front and the village of Monchy.

The Newfoundlanders of the companies in the original attack fought and shot until their ammunition ran out and they were taken prisoner.

The Essex were in the same boat.


Casualties for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were 460 in number with 166 killed, 141 wounded and 153 POW

For the Essex, it was 602 casualties of which 400 were POW.

Between the two regiments, about 1300 men advance on the front and of those, 1000 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

The whole Battle of Arras which ended on May 16, 1917 was a costly affair for the British and Dominion forces.

The Monchy Nine of the RNR

I have seen articles calling them the Monchy Ten which is more accurate given that the Newfoundlanders were joined by one Essex soldier.



Sorry, but I don't have a photo of the single Essex man that joined them during the battle. The story of the Monchy Nine and how they saved Monchy and that part of the front (British history reports, not mine) is part of the legend of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment which traces its roots back to the American Revolution when they were they there to repel the American forces who attacked Montreal in 1775.

EDIT: The photo seems to have one of the Essex men included so the means that they are one short.




The iconic caribou monument. This was erected at Monchy near a German position.

I have to check but I believe that the King allowed the Newfoundland Regiment to add "Royal" to the regimental title after this battle.




The CBC aired a pretty good documentary about the Monchy Nine. It features commentary from descendants of men who fought there. Much of what was known of the battle as the nine saw it comes from a letter by one of the men who was there that was sent to his parents

Several of the men in this little group were decorated for their actions.

[Read More]

CBC docs always have advertisements. You can't avoid them but they are mercifully quick.

Cheers,

George



George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 10:46:40 AM


Phil andrade
London, UK
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Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 1:24:32 PM
Thanks for telling us this dramatic story, George : a veritable twentieth century Thermopylae ,

I had not known about this tragic and epic Newfoundland stand.

We all know about Beaumont Hamel....but we don't hear about this.

Much the same might be said of other Dominion contingents : for example, the South African Brigade won imperishable fame at Delville Wood in July 1916 ; it's not widely known that they took another battering in a second tour of duty on the Somme three moths later....I even suspect that they might have been engaged in this Arras fighting, too.

I note that more Newfoundlanders were recorded as dead than those who were counted as wounded : an unusual and appalling testimony to the ferocity of the fighting. I wonder if many of those posted as POW were wounded, too.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 6101
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 2:15:22 PM
George-I read your story this morning and was astonished to learn that these gallant soldiers had again suffered appallingly-I found Haig's Dispatch; but absolutely no mention of this action in the Monchy le Preux section-so said nothing.

George why did these men- who had already been as near as dammit annihilated at Beaumont Hamel-take another hammering at Monchy-was it because they were too gung ho or too green or was the task a step too far??; and I am not in any way being disparaging-I am just baffled.Can you help me understand please ???

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 2:38:59 PM
Hi Phil,

I can tell you that our Newfoundlanders take great pride in their Royal Newfoundland Regiment and its grand history. It is a wonder that they were able to find men to fight after Gallipoli, the Somme and this smaller fiasco.

The population of the Dominion of Newfoundland was about 240,000 in 1914. Quite a price was paid by this little country which was fiercely independent but loyal to the crown.

Other than Beaumont-Hamel, the Battle of Monchy was the most costly of the war for the Newfoundlanders.

I wouldn't mind hearing a bit about the 1st Essex experience in this battle. It was harrowing but I do not know the details. So if anyone wants to weigh in with a synopsis or a special interest story, I would be keen to read it.

This was a great stand as well with some officers reorganizing Essex companies to withstand the German attack.

I did find this:

[Read More]

Perhaps a comment on the attritional nature of this war, at least parts of it, was that when the Newfoundlanders and the 1st Essex were finally taken out of the line, there were so few of them left that they were reorganized temporarily into the 1st NewfoundEssex Battalion and returned to duty.


A staff officer of the British 29th Division made this comment after the Battle:


Quote:
The attack east of Monchy on the 14th was but one more example of the futility of piecemeal attacks beloved by the Higher Command and abhorred by the Divisions and still more by the Brigades and Battalions.

Had our attack east of Monchy been part of a general assault we should not in all probability have lost two battalions and might moreover gained and held our objective. As a result when the Germans counterattacked there was practically nobody in our front line at Monchy and it was only the presence of mind of Forbes-Robertson that saved the situation


Even at this period of the war, small units were committed without the ability to hold a position once seized.

As well, there was another British regiment placed to the south of Monchy and it prevented the Germans from surrounding the town in the aftermath of the battle. I wish that I could recall the name of the regiment.

Cheers,

George


George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 2:46:31 PM

Quote:
George-I read your story this morning and was astonished to learn that these gallant soldiers had again suffered appallingly-I found Haig's Dispatch; but absolutely no mention of this action in the Monchy le Preux section-so said nothing.

George why did these men- who had already been as near as dammit annihilated at Beaumont Hamel-take another hammering at Monchy-was it because they were too gung ho or too green or was the task a step too far??; and I am not in any way being disparaging-I am just baffled.Can you help me understand please ???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


I can't Jim, not specifically. They were part of a British division, doing their bit.

The 1st Essex suffered as much in a poorly planned battle. I really don't know what the objective was.

British 1st and 3rd divisions, during the Battle of Arras did advance about 3 miles.

Monchy seemed to have limited objectives which were attained. I don't know whether HQ had further plans beyond the seizure of the German forward trenches.

1st Essex and the Newfoundlanders were digging in as they were overwhelmed by superior German forces.

I would like to know why British intelligence did not know that the Germans were massing for an offensive just behind the lines that the Essex and NR had taken. The Germans were going to take back Monchy that had been won by the 37th.

The accounts of the Battle of Monchy indicate that the British troops attained objectives and then were bombed and attacked on all three sides by the Germans.

So the Newfoundlanders, only a regiment seemed to have found themselves in some difficult situations but we can say the same for any of the British forces at Gallipoli, the Somme and at Monchy.

Cheers,

George



scoucer
Berlin, Germany
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 1957

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 2:55:26 PM

Quote:
I have seen articles calling them the Monchy Ten which is more accurate given that the Newfoundlanders were joined by one Essex soldier.



Sorry, but I don't have a photo of the single Essex man that joined them during the battle. The story of the Monchy Nine and how they saved Monchy and that part of the front (British history reports, not mine) is part of the legend of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment which traces its roots back to the American Revolution when they were they there to repel the American forces who attacked Montreal in 1775.

EDIT: The photo seems to have one of the Essex men included so the means that they are one short.George--George


Sgt C. Parsons of the 1st Essex is the small guy second from the right standing.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 3:06:28 PM
Thanks Trevor. I was trying to look for subtle differences in the uniforms or badges but I wasn't sharp enough pick anything out.

And he was a little guy wasn't he? Either that or those Newfies and Forbes-Robertson were big men.

One of the things that impresses me about the Monchy 10 was that they were signallers and runners operating out of HQ. Not that they weren't trained to shoot but they had other necessary jobs than front line infantry. At least that's the way that I see it.

As well, some of the attacking Germans included a Bavarian Division that was known to be extremely skillful and dedicated. I believe that it hit the 1st Essex pretty hard.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 3:07:44 PM
CWGC commemorates 190 dead from the Essex Regiment in France for the 14th April 1917.


We might be correct if we attribute all these to the action at Monchy.

Even higher fatalites than those of the Newfoundlanders.

The ferocity of the German counter attacks is one of the features of the Arras battles of April and May 1917.

The Australian experience at Bullecourt stands as a symbol for the entire battle : a poorly planned attack, resulting in repulse with appalling slaughter, followed by German counter attacks which were, in their turn, bloodily thwarted.

The Monchy experience exhibits the same intensity.

I'll see if I can find some German accounts.

Regards , Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
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Posts: 1957

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 3:33:32 PM

Quote:


As well, there was another British regiment placed to the south of Monchy and it prevented the Germans from surrounding the town in the aftermath of the battle. I wish that I could recall the name of the regiment.

Cheers,George--George


2nd Hampshire.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 4:07:43 PM

Quote:

Quote:


As well, there was another British regiment placed to the south of Monchy and it prevented the Germans from surrounding the town in the aftermath of the battle. I wish that I could recall the name of the regiment.

Cheers,George--George


2nd Hampshire.

Trevor

--scoucer


Thanks Trevor, it was the Hampshires that sent a platoon forward to assist the Monchy 10.


Quote:
As soon as it was dark a platoon from the Hampshires came forward and relieved the Newfoundlanders. But there was still one more contribution to be made to the day’s heroism. Before they withdrew, Lieutenant Kevin Keegan went out with two of his men to bring in five wounded Newfoundlanders who were lying in a portion of the Assembly Trench unoccupied by the Germans. Back at Battalion Headquarters Forbes-Robertson collected another two dozen NCOs and men who had straggled in from the battle.


I think that there was one other British regiment situated a bit further back and south of Monchy. The name begins with a "W" and I cannot find the source of the information.

They deserve credit for preventing an end around run by the German forces.


The British were generous when doling out medals to the Monchy 10.


Quote:

Brigadier General James Forbes-Robertson, VC, DSO & Bar, MC, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

London Gazette, 18th June 1917:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of his battalion during an enemy attack. He collected all the men he could find, and taking up a position on the outskirts of a village, brought the hostile advance to an end by his fire. He undoubtedly saved a very critical situation by his promptness, bravery and example.







Captain Kevin J. Keegan, MC & Bar, was awarded the Military Cross.

London Gazette, 18th June 1917:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed the greatest bravery and resource and by his personal example maintained a post against overwhelming odds, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, who were completely checked.



The other soldiers who defended Monchy-le-Preux were:
The Military Medal (courtesy Royal Newfoundland Museum)
Private D. Wilfred (Fred) Curran, MM,

Staff Sergeant John H Hillier, MM,

Lance Corporal Japhet Hounsell, MM,

Sergeant Charles Parsons, MM & Bar,

Private Victor M. Parsons, MM (lst. Essex Regt.),

Sergeant Walter Pitcher, MM,

2nd Lieut. Albert S. Rose, DCM, MM,

Sergeant Joseph R. Waterfield, MM.

These soldiers received the Military Medal and their citations are identical.

London Gazette, July 9th, 1917:

For bravery in the field. At Monchy-le-Preux on April 14th, 1917, when an attack had failed and the enemy were advancing on the village, he displayed the greatest of gallantry as one of a small party hastily collected to oppose the hostile advance. This party maintained itself in the face of overwhelming odds, inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and completely checked him on this part of the line.



Cheers,

George

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 1957

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 5:14:31 PM
4th Worcester.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/23/2017 6:31:35 PM

Quote:
4th Worcester.

Trevor
--scoucer


Yes, thanks Trevor. That was it.

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 2:37:20 AM

Quote:
4th Worcester.

Trevor
--scoucer


Crikey, Trevor !

How do you know all this ?

This is so impressive, it's mind boggling.

Do you get this from official narrative, or maps ?

Regards , Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 6101
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 8:41:13 AM
It was a trap George-the Germans had defended in depth and the Essex an Newfiies had advanced past two German lines- took their objective- only to be surrounded by Germans on all sides.Neither Btn returned-the Essex lost 17 officers and 585 ORs and the Newfoundlanders 17 officers and 473 ORs Killed, Wnded and POWs.

Source- Jomathon Nichols' book "Cheerful Sacrifice"

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 1957

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 9:57:19 AM

Quote:

Quote:
4th Worcester.

Trevor
--scoucer


Crikey, Trevor !

How do you know all this ?

This is so impressive, it's mind boggling.

Do you get this from official narrative, or maps ?

Regards , Phil--Phil andrade


Phil,

My grandfathers were in the Lancashire Fusiliers.The history of the 29th Division is therefore for me something special.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 12:59:03 PM

Quote:
It was a trap George-the Germans had defended in depth and the Essex an Newfiies had advanced past two German lines- took their objective- only to be surrounded by Germans on all sides.Neither Btn returned-the Essex lost 17 officers and 585 ORs and the Newfoundlanders 17 officers and 473 ORs Killed, Wnded and POWs.

Source- Jomathon Nichols' book "Cheerful Sacrifice"

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Thanks Jim. Is Nichols implying that this was a deliberate attempt to lure the British over?

If so it was a rather elaborate ruse if that was the only goal. The Germans had amassed divisions in preparation for the attack to retake Monchy-Le-Preux. They were preparing their artillery shoot.

From what I have read, they and the British were preparing attacks at the same time and the British were unaware of number of Germans collecting to the east of Monchy. This sounds like a failure of British intelligence.

If the Germans were aware of the limited objectives of the British at Monchy, then perhaps a trap could be sprung, that is if they were aware that two regiments was all that the British were committing.

As well, why did they not simply send a large group to annihilate the Monchy 10. When this small group began to rapid fire, the Germans sent small groups and scouts forward to determine the strength of the British forces. They were cut down by the British.

Had they known that only 10 men were holding them up, then surely they would have rushed the position at the hedge.

So I am not disputing what you say Jim, but I would like to know more of how Nichols feels that this was a trap sprung on the 1st Essex and the Newfoundlanders.


RE: Defence in depth

I referred to the "elastic defence" employed by the Germans at Monchy. Very few men were committed to the forward trenches and the Germans were prepared to let the enemy come through at points where the men in the trenches could not stop them. And then they could deploy troops waiting further back to counter attack.

Essentially that's what happened to the 1st Essex and the Newfoundland regiment. They were able to take their objectives and then were counterattacked heavily.

Is that what Nichols means by "a trap".

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6101
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 1:14:15 PM
No George- but he does state that the Germans were seen scurrying about on each side, but making no attempt at stopping the Brit advance.I would have thought that this would have seemed suspicious and it was I who deemed this action a trap.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 2:12:43 PM

Quote:
No George- but he does state that the Germans were seen scurrying about on each side, but making no attempt at stopping the Brit advance.I would have thought that this would have seemed suspicious and it was I who deemed this action a trap.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


As I understand it, what you describe is the essence of elastic defence or defence in depth.

Forward trenches are lightly manned. Where they can stymie an attack they will but where they cannot, the enemy will break through.

Bend but don't break. Delay your enemy.

At this point the larger forces in the rear positions counter attack to wipe out the enemy at points of penetration.

British forces also adopted this tactic when it became apparent that to place the bulk of your assets too far forward was resulting in their destruction during initial bombardments followed by the immediate presence of ground troops.

I suppose that elastic defence or defence in depth could be construed as a trap of sorts but that was not why the Germans and then the allies adopted the tactic.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2597

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 6:09:36 PM
The classic Cannae envelopment in miniature....yield in the centre, surround and annihilate the incursion.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5701

Re: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Monchy Nine
Posted on: 4/24/2017 7:45:26 PM
Phil that 's what appeared to happen to 1st Essex. There were Germans on all sides. Eventually there was nothing to do but surrender.

Cheers,

George

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