Alexander MOUNTENEY
Rank: Private
Number: 8083
Unit: 2nd Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 25 September 1915
Age: 33
Cemetery: Cambrin Churchyard Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Little is known about Alex's family life. His parents were William Thomas Mountenay and Sarah Mountenay who, after the War, were living at 138 Turncroft Road, Stockport. As a young man, he had served with the Cheshire Regiment during the Boer War. It's not known if he was then a regular soldier serving with the 2nd Battalion or with the 4th Volunteer Battalion (modern day Territorials). In any event, at some point after serving in Africa, he returned home and did join the army as a regular soldier, serving with the Welsh Fusliers. He had completed his term and had returned to civilian life in Stockport around the beginning of 1913. He was still an army reservist, however, and when War was declared in August 1914, Alex was recalled to the Colours, probably going overseas within days and taking part in Battle of Mons and the subsequent engagements during the British retreat.

The Battle of Loos would be known as the "Big Push" and was the first large scale British offensive of the War. The attack would see the first use of poison gas by the British and the enemy would be "softened up" by several days of artillery bombardment. At 5.50am, on 25 September, the gas was released but due to a change in wind direction it stayed in front of the British trenches, hardly moving towards the enemy. It was, however, too late to stop the attack. The men went "over the top" at 6.30.

In the Fusiliers' sector, they were to attack along both banks of the Le Bassee Canal. The men had had a poor night. They had been in the cramped assembly trenches since the early hours. There was to have been an issue of rum an hour before "zero" but "A" Company lost theirs. The commander of "B" Company, Captain Freeman, countermanded the issue and, to the dismay of his men, ordered it poured on the ground. They were to support the 1st Middlesex and 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who would lead the attack toward the village of Auchy, about 1000 yards away.

The leading troops moved forward on schedule and, as planned, the Fusiliers moved forward towards the British front line. Not many even made it that far. The combination of British gas and German shelling and machine gun fire wreaked havoc amongst the ranks. As they reorganised and pushed forward, Captain Freeman collapsed and died - a heart attack. At 8am, they were in a position to "go over" to support the other units. As they moved forward, the German rifle and machine gun fire intensified. The men of "B" and "C" Companies were mown down within 30 or 40 yards. There was no prospect of success and the officers ordered the men to take whatever cover they could.

Meanwhile "A" and "D" Companies had suffered the same difficulties in getting towards the front line. They were in position near Cambrin Church, where Alex and Ernest Bath are now buried. They were supposed to follow the two leading companies but, seeing that it was useless, the orders were countermanded. They had suffered almost as badly and took further casualties from shellfire throughout the day.

Alex was probably a member of "A" or "D" Companies and one of his NCOs wrote to his parents "He died as he had lived - a soldier and a man and doing his best for his country. He went out 5 times to bring in wounded and it was on the fifth journey that he met his death. If ever there was a hero, it was poor Alex and I hope this will be a little consolation for you."

   
           
   
     
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