01 December 2017

Casualties of Passchendaele: Captain Henry Rawson Forde

Saturday 2 December will mark 100 years since Captain Henry Rawson Forde was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres. Here is more about the man who led the last offensive of the battle.


Captain Henry Rawson Forde

2nd Bn. King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Died: 2 December 1917

Aged: 22

Buried in: CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Henry was the only son of Sir Henry Forde and Lady Forde. He attended Clifton College, and then Sandhurst in 1914. He was gazetted as an officer in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in January 1915.

Henry’s army career didn’t get off to the best start, and he was arrested and tried for behaving in an “unbecoming manner” with a female companion at the Tivoli Music Hall in Hull. However, he put all that behind him and later went to Belgium with his regiment.

He was later promoted to captain and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for leading his men with great gallantry and capturing a line of enemy posts and 40 prisoners.

While the Third Battle of Ypres officially ended in early November, operations in Belgium continued in a bid to secure the best possible position on the Passchendaele Ridge for future campaigns.

The final attack on the Passchendaele Ridge was set for 2 December.

In the middle of the night, Henry led his men into action. However, the Germans saw them approach and Henry’s battalion came immediately under heavy machine-gun fire. During the fighting Henry was killed.

A surviving officer wrote: “The failure of the battalion to reach and hold its objective can be ascribed to the fact that, with very few exceptions, the company officers became casualties very quickly. All four company sergeant majors were killed or wounded, along with most of the sergeants and senior NCOs. The casualties were due chiefly to machine gun and rifle fire which was very heavy and probably the enemy had knowledge of the attack, thus eliminating the element of surprise, which was the essence of this operation.”

Henry was originally buried on the battlefield with another officer of his battalion, Second Lieutenant J N Ellis. Today, they lie side by side in CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery.

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