My Family At War

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by Paul Reed, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. andalucia

    andalucia Senior Member

    Am I glad i watched this last night.

    Matthew Kelly's story about his grandad amazed me. You see my great grandfather John Owens fought alongside Matthews grandad. John was in the same battalion as Matthews grandad and when they talked about "MOUSETRAP FARM" I sat there stunned.

    My Great grandfather died during the fighting at Mousetrap farm, He died on 13th May 1915, they even mentioned that date as the day Matthews grandad was injured. It was brilliant to see the area.

    John Owens died during the battle of Frezenberg. His unit was moved to the front line trenches north of Wieltje on May 9th, where they held their position under heavy shellfire and infantry attack. They went over the top and took part in the fighting at Mousetrap farm between 13th -14th May. John was killed in action on the 13th May. His unit was relieved on the 15th, total casualties since 9th May=387 killed, wounded and missing.

    What they failed to tell Matthew was that this regiment was present at the Christmas truce of 1914, I think he would have liked to have known that.

    My Great grandad John Owens has no grave, he is remembered on the menin gate memorial.

    A great show really interesting. did you see Tuffers in the WW1 plane? he loved it.
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin


    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    John Owens died during the battle of Frezenberg. His unit was moved to the front line trenches north of Wieltje on May 9th, where they held their position under heavy shellfire and infantry attack. They went over the top and took part in the fighting at Mousetrap farm between 13th -14th May. John was killed in action on the 13th May. ...
    ...My Great grandad John Owens has no grave, he is remembered on the menin gate memorial.

    The name Mouse Trap Farm (map reference C.22.b) was incorrect for this period it was known as Shell Trap Farm in 1915, but this was considered an ill omen so it was changed by V Corps to Mouse Trap (some British units called it Canadian Farm). To the French and Belgium’s it was known as Chateau du Nord and to the Germans as Wielje Farm. The farm had been turned into a formidable defence with moat and trenches; it had changed hands many times during the fighting at Ypres 1915.
    The 1st East Lancashire’s were in reserve between the 4th and 8th May and on the night of the 7th/8th Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence with the second in command went up to the trenches at Mouse Trap Farm, where the Battalion was to relieve the Monmouth Regiment on the following night.
    At 5am on the 8th the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment which lasted until 8pm. During the afternoon the Battalion moved up to Vlamertingh, and thence at 7.30pm marched to Irish Farm. They were informed that Wieltje was still in the enemy’s hands, and was directed with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, to take up a line running north and south about 700 yards east of Wieltje and to clear the enemy out of Wieltje if still there.
    At 11pm the Battalion advanced along a track-Known as the Buffs road-and at reaching a cross road half a mile North West of Wieltje deployed on either side of the road. During the advance Major Rutter went forward to reconnoitre the situation about Mouse Trap farm. He returned with the information that a trench near the farm was held by a platoon of the Northumberland Fusiliers and the enemy’s trenches were 300 yards north east of the farm. Major Rutter then occupied a trench, running slightly south east from the farm, without opposition. One Company was in touch with the Monmouth Regiment in the Farm. It was then known that Wieltje was not occupied by the enemy, these positions were held during the night. The morning of the 9th was quite, but between 2pm and 6pm the Battalion trenches were shelled with heavy shells which flattened some 50 yards of trench and killed 8 men and wounded 14. During the night the trenches were repaired.
    The 10, 11th, and 12th were comparatively quite days, there was but little shelling, but a good deal of sniping. During these 3 days the 1st Rifle Brigade took over Mouse Trap Farm and the trench to the left of it. Dawn on the 13th broke in heavy rain, which continued all day, and about 4am the enemy commenced an intense bombardment of the whole line and back area (the bombardment was said to be the heaviest, at one time over a hundred shells fell in the farm in one minute) the bombardment continued with varying intensity until dusk. The survivors who were left were driven out of the farm. The breastworks held by the East Lancashire’s were badly damaged with many casualties but the men in the good trenches did not suffer to the same extent. An attack on “C” Company between 7 & 7.30am was easily repulsed by rifle and machine gun fire but an attack on “A” Company about 9am was carried out by bombers covered by rifle fire from Mouse Trap Farm. In the breastworks nearest to the farm many men were killed and the survivors were driven out. The remaining breastworks were enfiladed from both flanks and were shelled by heavy and light artillery; the heavy howitzers fired salvos of four in quick succession, a fire under which it seemed that no man could survive. During lulls in the artillery fire the German bombers advanced to the attack, covered by their snipers lying close up to the wire. The fighting was very hot; many bombers were shot by the survivors in the breastworks, but the German snipers took a heavy toll among the Officers and men who manned the breastworks. Officers and men were killed while firing over the breastworks, Lieutenant Salt though wounded in the head, stuck to his post, and it is said that he shot some thirty Germans, including an officer who was leading an attack and had demanded his surrender (he received the Military Cross for his gallantry).
    During the action the fire from the farm was replied to from shell holes and remains of breastworks, and Lance Corporal Thorne and Private Cowburn took up a position at the bridge over the farm moat; both men were wounded, but they hung on and prevented the enemy crossing the moat. About 10.30am two Platoons of “B” Company were sent up to relieve the remains of “A” Company and establish themselves in shell holes close to the farm. About 11am a Platoon of 2nd Essex arrived to reinforce the battalion (the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Essex seeing that the front line was hard pressed acted on his own initiative). During the rest of the day no further attacks was made on the Battalion, but during the afternoon attacks were made on the 1st Hants and the 1st Somerset Light Infantry.
    At dusk Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence was directed to take charge at Mouse Trap Farm and drive the enemy out.
    The first attack failed; Captain Leake was killed and both platoon commanders were wounded. The second attempt was made by Lieutenant Lane but he was gallantly killed at the entrance to the building leading his platoon. The third attempt cleared the enemy out of the Farm building and occupied the trenches within the moat.
    The night of the 13th/14th was very quiet, but very dark and very wet. About 10pm Lieutenant Richards, anxious to get in touch with the Company in the Farm went towards the buildings. He found them with some difficulty, but could not find Company Headquarters. He returned to his own position which he reached about 1am on the 14th. Soon after dawn he saw some men of the Battalion entering the German trenches from the direction of the farm. He immediately went to the left of his position, where he met C.S.M. St John of “D” Company, who reported that three Platoons of “D” Company had entered the farm on the previous night, in considerable confusion owing to the darkness, rain and chaos of shell holes. In some places the men were so close to the enemy that the bayonets of the opposing forces were almost touching. The men did their best to return the enemy’s fire, but most of the rifles were so clogged with mud that the bolts could not be made to work. All traces of trenches had been obliterated, and the ill fated garrison found itself at dawn on the following morning lying unprotected in the open in front of the farm, with two machine guns trained on it at 15 yards range, hopelessly cut off on both flanks and to the rear. Inevitable capture followed.
    The gallant C.S.M. St John, however, seeing a fleeting opportunity of escape, somehow succeeded in dodging his way back from shell hole to shell hole, through the farm ruins, and on to where Lieutenant Richards found him.
    Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence immediately sent one Platoon of the 5th South Lancashire Regiment to the breastworks, another to a shell hole west of the farm and the third to clear up the situation at the farm. This platoon entered the farm without opposition and established itself in what remained of the farm buildings, where it was reinforced by another Platoon of 5th South Lancashire’s, after dark.
    The rest of the day was quite, and at 11pm the Battalion was relieved by the Monmouth Regiment and marched back to Divisional support line.
    The casualties to the Battalion during the week ending May 16th amounted to 14 Officers Killed, 8 wounded, 3 missing (P.O.W’s) and 1 admitted to hospital. Of other ranks 102 including 16 Sergeants and 20 Corporals were killed, 204 wounded and 73 missing, of whom 49 were known to be P.O.W’s.

    I take it that he's the J.Owens at the bottom of this pic?

    Attached Files:

    • 1.jpg
      File size:
      78.4 KB
    Smudger Jnr likes this.
  4. andalucia

    andalucia Senior Member

    Hi Croonaert

    Thank you for this very interesting article, it has so much that i did not know in it.

    Yes that is John's name from the Menin Gate memorial. I have not yet made it over to Belgium but i do plan too in time. A kind person from this forum sent me a photo of John's name a whils back.

    Thanks again for that info, really good of you

  5. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I agree with Andalucia,

    A really enlightening post to read.


  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just seen the latest one.
    Thought someone was indulging their fantasy in getting Kate to dress up in khaki.
    Good to remember the wounded as said before we seem to only remember the dead.
    Somehow I couldn't connect with Eamon Holmes.
    The story was good but there was something about him that niggled me.
    Seeing Jo Legge was a shock as I haven't seen her since she was Jo Parker.
    Blimey shows how old I am.
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Just seen the latest one.
    Somehow I couldn't connect with Eamon Holmes.
    The story was good but there was something about him that niggled me.

    Snap... well, he is a Man U supporter :D

    I don't think he really connected with his grandfather's story, on camera anyway. Said all the right things, thought he came across as a little mechanical, apart from the time he read the medical report. Frankly if I had seen that war diary entry I'd have been a little more impressed.

    Two very relevant progs in a row for me. Great so far.

    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    Seeing as they seem to be gaining so much discussion on various forums, I might actually get to watch one of them eventually!

    (Not a big TV viewer in all honesty, but am banned from watching any WW1 documentary after 9pm!)

  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I actually prefered Mr Homles story to Kate's.

    Eamon seemed to be a bit more Knowledgable about WW1 so perhaps his understanding watered down his feelings (I don't know, just a thought).

    What I was hoping for and it delivered was about the goings on in Ireland at the time. Quite interesting and apt I thought seeing as there has been at least two threads on here recently about Ireland and remembrance.

    Was there any members on last nights show by any chance?
  10. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Only in the background, Drew. :lol:

    Lloyd Clark, who spoke to Kate at Sandhurst, has written some good books on WW2.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Only in the background, Drew. :lol:

    Come on then Paul spill the beans :D

    Name and shame with members profile names ;)
  12. Auditman

    Auditman Senior Member

    I am finding this series both educational and enjoyable and the reactions of the "celebs" interesting, Matthew Kelly was totally caught up in the emotions that touching history brings. One thing that I would have liked to see was a bit more detail on the "where". Whilst I agree that this programme is aimed at those wanting to find out about forefathers a great number of viewers will have some knowledge and want places put into context. Last night Kate was at Essex Farm ADS, closely linked with the "In Flanders Fields" poem by John McRae and I understand one of the reasons why the poppy was chosen as a symbol of remembrance. Dan Snow's relation commanded at the Somme. No real reference to the battalions under his command or the sector involved. Had to get out the text books for that one. Other than that a fine series so far and looking forward to part 4 on Tuesday.

    By the way is Paul taking over TV? I caught up with Michael Palin's excellent Last Day of World War One last night, and there was Paul again.

    There is also a Time Team special on Monday, excavating a large bunker near Passcendaele that looks worth while.
  13. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    By the way is Paul taking over TV?
    Apparently... yes! :huh:

    Matthew Kelly did his reputation no harm did he? A really strong bit of TV.
    I agree with others that I was less convinced by Eamonn Holmes, he didn't really seem to care about the story as much as the others have.

    Must say I'm looking forward to Rolf Harris on the 11th.
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Bravo BBC for saving the best to last. Big enough to admit I needed a tissue on this one thanks to Rolf Harris

    Well Done Paul...Pass on a good job done to the people at BBC if you can :)

  15. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Thanks Andy - I haven't actually seen the final programme myself yet. Glad it had such an effect.
  16. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    Yeah the ones I managed to watch were excellent, pass on the congratulations Paul. Going to catch up with those I missed on the Iplayer in the next few days.
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I'll be watching it later this morning, was at work when it was shown.
    Only caught the last ten minutes.
  18. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    L>ikewise Owen , I saw nothing of last nights programme , will catch it later this afternoon.
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I have always had a soft spot (Hence the kleenex) for the Aussies mainly because I think they had such a 'laddish' comradery second to none in my opinion, they seemed to be treated with contempt by the British top brass and got the jiff jobs as a result.

  20. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    they seemed to be treated with contempt by the British top brass and got the jiff jobs as a result.

    I disagree, The Top Brass new they could rely on them to get the job done.
    That's why they often had tough jobs.

    Just watched it and thought they saved the best until last.
    The bit where Kirsty said "What's this Paul?" made my Mrs smile as we said exactly those words doing the same thing this summer. :)
    I thought the Vickers chap a bit too enthusiastic wearing the WW1 ID tags around his neck. Though it did look like he was having fun building a trench in what looked like his backgarden.

    Really good series, if it helps people learn about their own families involvement then the series is to be applauded even if some of the purists elsewhere have had a moan about it.

Share This Page