The Ypres Salient - CWGC

The successful counter-attack of the 2nd Worcesters resulted in tactical advantages massively out of proportion to the number of troops involved. Tasked with re-establishing the J or E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery in action near Wyteschaete, October 1914British line in Gheluvelt, seven officers and 350 men (in effect the tired survivors of three companies, ‘B’,’C’ and ‘D’) led by Major E Hankey were assembled at around 2pm in the south-west corner of Polygon Wood. They faced a perilous south-easterly advance of around 1,000 yards across a shallow shell-swept valley, the scene of desolation and chaos as disorganised groups of British troops, including many wounded, sought to move back.

Ordered to advance, the Worcesters, the only British forces moving forward towards the enemy, suffered around 100 casualties crossing this exposed ground. Keeping up their aggressive momentum, the attackers surprised the German occupants of the Gheluvelt Chateau grounds and routed them with a determined bayonet charge. Gheluvelt, having been lost at 11.30am, was in British hands again by 2.30pm. The casualties for the 2nd Worcesters on 31 October were three officers and 189 other ranks. (These totals include figures for the fourth company, 'A', which had performed important defensive duties on the Menin Road on 31 October).

The Worcesters’ memorable attack, quite remarkable in itself, has however overshadowed other gallant and potentially decisive minor actions occurring south of Gheluvelt on that same day. Notable amongst these was the scratch force of 1st Gloucesters, 2nd Welsh and King's Royal Rifle Corps which secured a breach in the British line near Veldhoek, and the late afternoon counter-attack ordered, against all odds, by Major-General Bulfin in which the heroic enthusiasm of 80 men of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders generated such significant offensive impetus, that their attack, having attracted support of other British troops, temporarily regained recently lost ground in front of Zandvoorde.


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