Battalion War Diary of the Battle of Messines Ridge


June 7th At 3.10 am (zero hour) our artillery opened up a terrific barrage on the Hun front line & simultaneously the mines under Hill 60 and the CATERPILLAR were blown. At zero +1 (minute) the first wave consisting of B Coy on the left & A Coy on the right went over, and were followed by D Coy (moppers up) & C Coy (Harry's Company) in support at short intervals. The attack progressed very favourably and by zero + 30 the Bn had reached its objective and began consolidating. Very few casualties were sustained in the actual attack.

At zero + 3hr 40mins the 8th Bn York & Lancaster Bn & the 8th Bn KOYLI on the right and left respectively, went over from our objective and reached the final objective of the Brigade.

June 9th The Bn remained in its objectives until the evening of the 9th. During this period the Bn underwent heavy shelling & sustained many casualties. B Coy also relieved the 8th Bn Y & L in the front line on the morning of the 9th. On the evening of the 9th the Bn was relieved by the 1st N Staffs Bn. The total casualties sustained were officers - killed 4 (including the C.O.) wounded 6. O.Rs - Killed 39, wounded 211. Died of wounds 9. Missing 18.

Night of 9th/10th On relief the Bn moved by motor lorry from KRUISTRAAT to SCOTTISH LINES. Capt. D Lewis took over temp command of Bn at midday on June 7th* from Lt Col Bowses Wilson, killed in action 7.6.17. Coys at O.C Coys disposal for cleaning up and re-organisation
* Added in very small writing as a superscript.

This account should be read alongside Harry's two letters of 11th June. He does mention the loss of the C.O but, amazingly, neither letter mentions the explosion of the mines. If the explosion could have been heard in London & Dublin, it must have been quite significant a few hundred yards away!

1 comment:

Michael Z. Williamson said...

I don't want to be skeptical, but London, and certainly Dublin, are a long way away.

I have to wonder how reliable reports of people hearing it are.
seems to indicate the reports are probably erroneous.

I've worked with smaller but more powerful blasts for runway demolition. I would think the overpressure would be lethal for a good distance, if the shock wave was still audible at that range. Since Harry neither lost his hearing (even temporary), nor reports on the blasts, it would indicate the perceived shock he felt was not out of order with standard artillery he experienced.