William CULLEN
Rank: Private
Number: 29251
Unit: 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Date of Death: 20 November 1917
Cemetery: Croisilles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Nothing is known of William's private life except that army records published after the War indicate he had been born in the Stockport area and enlisted in the town. The family history website, FreeBMD, records that the birth of a boy of this name was registered at Stockport in the March quarter of 1887 and this may well have been him.

Between the 13th and 16th November 1917, William and his comrades were in reserve at Belfast Camp, Ervillers. They left on the 17th and started to move forward towards the front line in preparation for a major attack on the enemy trench fortifications known as the Hindenberg Line. By the 19th they were in their assembly positions and cut gaps in their barbed wire at 10pm, to allow them to get through easily..

The attack would be later designated as the Battle of Cambrai, but the Fusiliers' War Diary named it at the time the "Battle of Croiselles Heights". This was, of course, only their small part in an attack involving many thousands of troops. It is interesting to note that the diary writer spells the name of the village wrongly as "elles" not "illes".

Zero hour for the attack was 6.20am. The diary writer continues "Enemy was taken completely by surprise and offered little resistance with exception of machine gunners, especially at Mebus Juno  where enemy machine gun section fought until it was overcome. At 7am, both Battalion objectives had been taken and the work of consolidation was well in hand."

Mebus Juno was one of several enemy strongpoints which gave determined resistance across the battlefield. The Battalion objectives were section of the enemy line called Tunnel Trench. The Diary continues "Tunnel Trench was found to be mined. All connecting wires were cut by Captain Pedlow and Captain Byrne who captured the German officer responsible for laying the mines, compelling him to point out where the mines were placed. Our artillery and machine gun barrage was very effective and inspired out men with confidence. Enemy artillery was ineffective and their barrage did not come down until we had occupied their trenches, when they opened on our original front line."

The combination of the surprise of the attack and the ferocity of the British artillery made this one of the most successful days of the War to date. The Fusiliers had captured their objectives with minimal loss. Only six men were dead but, unfortunately, William was amongst them.

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