This memorial is dedicated to the memory of more than 1,100 men of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers [1 RWF] who lost the lives in the Ypres Salient at the beginning of the First World War. It was unveiled on Sunday, 26th October 2014 in the presence of Colonel Henry Cadogan, the grandson of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Osbert Samuel Cadogan who was the commanding officer of the 1 RWF at the beginning of the First World War.
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Gumm R WELSH (CEO of In The Footsteps) at the Royal Welch Memorial in Zandvoorde.
As part of the 22nd Infantry Brigade in the 7th Division 1 RWF had arrived in the vicinity of Ypres on 14th October 1914 and were among the first British soldiers to fight in what became the Ypres Salient during the four years of the First World War. Their first major clash with the enemy came on 19th October 1914 as they strove to seize the Belgium city of Menin. It was discovered that the area had been reinforced by two full Army Corps during the attack and they had been forced to carry out a fighting withdrawal, which was conducted professionally and in good order. They were to clash thereafter with the German Imperial Army initially defending Zonnebeke and later defending the vicinity of Zandvoorde between 20th and 30th October 1014. The fighting at Zandvoorde on Friday, 30th October 1914 saw 1 RWF virtually annihilated fighting to prevent the capture of Ypres by the German Imperial Army.
On Friday, 30th October 1914 the newly formed Group Fabeck launched a ferocious attack against the hastily taken up positions of the defending British to the south of and along the Menin Road defending the small Belgium city of Ypres. Augmented by Cavalry, Jaeger, Landwehr and Artillery, they greatly outnumbered the British defenders. Group Fabeck advanced against General Byng's Cavalry Corps and elements of the Indian Corps on the Messines Ridge and the General Rawlinson's IV Corps which was to the right and south of the Menin Road. In the Messines area the thinly spread elements of the 1st Cavalry Division and Meerut Division were hard pressed by the German 26th Infantry Division and it was only the timely arrival of the leading elements of the 5th Division that prevented the town of Messines falling to the enemy.
By the 29th October 1914, 1 RWF had been reinforced and their numbers had increased to just over 400. They had taken up positions to the to the left of Captain Lord Hugh Grosvenor's C Squadron 1st Life Guards in rudimentary trenches to the east of the village of Zandvoorde. Their trenches were located on the forward slope of a slight rise not far from the old château. To their left were 2nd Battalion, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment [Green Howards] and 2nd Battalion, the 2nd Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. In reserve were the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and 1st Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment. 1 RWF deployed with their A Company on the right closest to Zandvoorde, then B, D and C Companies. Battalion headquarters was located in a dugout about 600 yards to the rear.
The night of the 29th/30th passed relatively quiet, but an unusual amount of noise from the enemy's transports was reported. At 06:00 hrs the German guns opened fire and further to the left of the 7th Division the German assault began against the 1st and 2nd Divisions in front of Gheluvelt and Zonnebeke respectively.
45 minutes or so later 260 guns of the German artillery turned their attention to the vicinity of Zandvoorde. Their shells began to rain down on the cavalrymen of the Household Cavalry defending the village and the officers and men of 1 RWF to their left. A t approximately 08:00 hrs, after an hour and a quarter of shelling, the German Infantrymen of the 39th Division advanced.
1 RWF to the left of the Life Guards were once more in the thick of the fighting. Their field of vision was short due to the close hedgerows and their restricted field of vision made it difficult for them to know what was happening on their left or right. As the German infantrymen approached, however, they were met with a wall of lead from the two machine guns and rifles of the Royal Welchmen.
1 RWF did not receive the order to withdraw to the second defensive line when it was given and thus when Zandvoorde was taken by the enemy their right flank was left exposed. The Germans began to exploit their advantage moving field-guns into the ruins of the village. The first that the Royal Welch knew about the fall of Zandvoorde was when they were engaged by the withering enfilading fire of these field-guns. Already under assault from infantry to their front, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Cadogan's men were now in danger of being outflanked.
Brigadier-General Lawford tried to send reinforcements to restore the situation. First the 2nd Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders and then the 1st Battalion, the South Staffords were sent in. Major General Byng pushed forward the 6th Cavalry Brigade to try to restore the situation at Zandvoorde itself, but they too were thwarted.
The enemy infantry occupied a large farmhouse about 30 yards to the right of 1 RWF's trenches and from there they began to fire at short range into the side of the Royal Welchmen. More infantrymen began to work their way around to the rear and left of the Royal Welch using the hedgerows. Soon the Germans were attacking from all sides and Lieutenant Colonel Cadogan's battalion was surrounded.
Section by section the Royal Welchmen fought it out. Captain Dooner, the Adjutant, had been sent forwards from Battalion headquarters with orders. As the Adjutant was returning Lieutenant Colonel Cadogan saw him fall. Leaving the shelter of the headquarters dugout the CO rushed to his aid, but he too was hit. Lieutenant E Woodhouse was wounded and taken prisoner during the engagement and he later recalled:
"We were holding a line about three-quarters of a mile long. A Company on the right, then B, D and C on the left. The trenches were not well sighted for field of fire. So far as I know no one was on our right; some 'Blues' were supposed to be there; but I did not see them. It was foggy in the early morning so that the Germans could not shell us much, which was lucky, as they had two batteries on Zandvoorde Ridge. About 8 am the shelling increased, and we saw large numbers of Germans advancing down a slope about 1,500 yards to our front. Also I believe large numbers were seen coming around our exposed right flank. The batteries on the ridge were now firing point-blank into our trenches, so that it was difficult to see what was happening, and the rifle also increased from our right rear. No orders were received, so it was thought best to stay where we were, and about midday the whole battalion was either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
Casualties: Colonel Cadogan, Dooner, Egerton, and an officer from the Cornwalls killed, self wounded and prisoner, Poole, Evans and Barrow (Cornwalls) prisoners. During the day or the next day Bake, who was doing Staff-Captain, was killed. I was taken to a dressing station in Zandvoorde and patched up."
Some of the men from 1 RWF did make it out of the battle and mustered the following day at Hooghe; there was just the Quartermaster and 85 men. Seven officers and 320 other ranks were either killed, wounded or missing. Among them were Lieutenant Colonel Cadogan, Captain Claud Dooner the Adjutant and Private Allen Davies the CO's Batman; the Battalion had almost ceased to exist. Private Allen Davies, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Osbert Samuel Cadogan and Captain Alfred Edwin Claud Toke Dooner are buried side-by-side in Hooge Crater CWGC Cemetery plot IXA, row L, graves 10, 11 and 12 respectively.
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Osbert Samuel Cadogan.