' Stockport Soldiers who died 1914 - 1918 - Battle Report
3rd Battle of Ypres attacking towards the Houthoulst Forest
Date: 22 October 1917
Regiment: 16th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment

During 21 October, British troops lined up in assembly trenches along a 2.5 mile front, north of Poelcappelle (some 6 miles north of Ypres - now Ieper). The specific objectives of the 16th Cheshires were German trenches along a road running in front of the forest, near Colombo House.

The night was bitterly cold and it rained heavily. The enemy, presumably expecting an attack, kept up a strong artillery barrage throughout the night, which caused casualties. For the men, huddled together in the trench, it must have been a miserable experience, made worse by the fact that the rations of rum and tea did not reach their positions.

At 5.30am, they went "over the top". The rain of the previous days had turned the land into a marsh. The "creeping" artillery barrage, which the troops would closely follow, for protection, was only moving forward at 100 yards every eight minutes. Even then the men were having difficulty keeping up. The ground was broken by many shell holes each filled with a foot of water.

The Regimental History concludes "Still, the objectives were reached. Then began a long day's struggle, dealing first with unconquered pill-boxes - concrete machine gun posts - and enemy counter attacks".

By 6.50am, the Cheshires had captured the pill-boxes at Colombo House and Marachel Farm. Heavy casualties had been suffered by "Z" Company whilst taking the farm and it was reduced to about two platoons of men. The Company's Commander reported back that most of the rifles were now useless, due to the mud. Throughout the morning, the troops came under rifle fire from two enemy concrete pillboxes. The supporting company of the Machine Gun Corps was ordered to bring up a Vickers gun, but the two men carrying it were hit by sniper fire and the gun itself was damaged by a bullet.

Most of the objectives were held throughout the day until about 4.30pm. Under cover of an intense artillery bombardment, the Germans counter attacked. They came forward in such strength that the Cheshires and the battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers, on their right, were forced back to positions around Colombo House. During the evening, the Battalion was relieved by the 15th Cheshires.

The 16th had suffered over 330 casualties - dead, missing or wounded. The dead included several local men - Luke Albiston, William Austin, John Beckett, Allen Canovan, Thomas Davies, Erneste Greenhalgh, Norman Purtill, Fred Ramscar, Philip Springate, Fred Turner and Harry Wilde. David Harris is believed to have been seriously wounded and died on 26 October in a military hospital.

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