IF THE Prime Minister had had his way, the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly referred to as Passchendaele, would not have taken place in 1917.
After the very severe winter weather, with food in short supply, Lloyd George was concerned at public reaction to any battle that might repeat the losses of the previous year on the Somme.
General Haig, on the other hand, was affected by the stories of mutinies among parts of the French army further to the south, and the risk that it may spread to the British Front.
Further, there had been the news of the February Revolution in Russia which was giving voice to the end of war between Russia and Germany.
Haig wanted to drive the German army back to a line which would give the Allied forces control of the Channel ports from which the German submarine fleet was carrying out attacks on Allied shipping in the Channel.
Lloyd George and the Cabinet eventually approved of General Haig’s summer offensive in Flanders, with the proviso that he would halt it if it resulted in losses on the scale of the Somme. General Haig put his plans into action on July 31.
Another Dawlish soldier lost his life in the line of duty on August 8 when Acting Corporal Thomas Norman Lewis was killed serving with 321st Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.
Thomas was the son of a naval pensioner and former coastguard, and had been born in Wexford in 1890 when his father was stationed at Courtown.
He was one of seven children who returned with their parents when they retired to live in Dawlish, at Iddesleigh Terrace.
Thomas Lewis was a clerk in Dawlish Brewery before he joined the Army in January 1915. He became a qualified gun layer in August 1916 while in Malta.
His battery arrived in France in May 1917 and he was one of 10 men who manned a six-inch howitzer. It received a direct hit on August 8 in the opening phase of Passchendaele. Six men are recorded as being killed and Thomas is buried in Voormezeele Cemetery, south-west of Ypres.
A Service of Remembrance for Act/Cpl Thomas Norman Lewis will be held on Tuesday, August 8 at Dawlish Cemetery Chapel, Oakhill Road, at midday. All are welcome to attend.
The fate of Albert Mayne of the Coldstream Guards was reported in the Dawlish Gazette of August 9, 1917, when Private Reginald Honour had written home stating that ‘a comrade of his, Private Bert Mayne of Dawlish, had been very seriously wounded in the legs and stomach’. This occurred in the week prior to the launch of the major offensive on July 31.
A Service of Remembrance for Private Albert Mayne will be held on Wednesday, August 9 at St Agatha’s Church, Exeter Road, midday. All are welcome to attend.
Albert Mayne was the youngest of nine children born to Henry and Sarah Ann Mayne between 1875 and 1896.
Henry was an agricultural labourer and his wife was a laundress living in Old Town Street. Albert was an errand boy for a draper before the war.
He married Alice Edith Hills in 1915 and they had a son Derrick Mayne (1916-1996). It is not known when Albert enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. The 1st Battalion was mobilised on the outbreak of war and moved to France.
Private Albert Mayne was most likely a member of a scouting party sent out in the week July 23-28 to ascertain the strength and depth of enemy defences.
Night patrols attempted to bring back prisoners for interrogation prior to the major assault. Philip Gibbs, official war correspondent, reported that there was not much fighting except ‘quick raids for body-snatching and machine-gun grabbing’.
It is quite likely that a Coldstream Guards’ patrol had been surprised and the Germans would have criss-crossed the area with machine-gun and rifle fire.
His pals would have dragged Albert back to a trench for immediate bandaging of wounds. From there, medical orderlies carried him to a Casualty Clearing Station for treatment and assessment.
Those who stood a chance of recovery were then loaded on ambulances for bumpy and painful rides away from the battle area to hospital. Albert was taken to a general hospital at Le Treport, near Dieppe. He died of his wounds on August 9, 1917 and is buried in Mont Huon Military Cemetery at Le Treport. He was 20 years old.
n This article was prepared by the Dawlish WWI?Project. Further information can be found online at www.dawlishww1.org.uk.
On Monday Kenton commemorated two more of its First World War casualties. Both men were killed in action on the first day of the third Battle of Ypres.
Frederick George Causley was born in Kenton in 1891. His family lived at High Street and his father was a gardener and estate worker, probably at the Powderham Estate.
At the age of 16 Frederick joined the Coldstream Guards. At the outbreak of war he was stationed in the Chelsea Barracks, London, as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th (Guards) Brigade of the 2nd Division.
The battalion was mobilised for war on August 13, 1914 and landed at Le Havre as part of the British Expeditionary Force and was quickly engaged in action on the Western Front.
By 1915 Causley had been promoted to Sergeant when in February at Cuinchy he led his platoon in the charge on the brickfields, which were captured under heavy fire. For his gallantry and ability in this action he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).
Later in 1915 while on leave Frederick married Margaret Slater.
As an able and decorated soldier, he was commissioned in 1916 and transferred to the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. By July 1917 he had been promoted to Acting Captain and was commanding a company.
On July 31, the first day of the third Battle of Ypres, Frederick was leading his company into action. He was hit by a bullet from a machine-gun just as the objective was reached.
Captain Frederick George Causley has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.
On the same day that Frederick Causley died, another Kenton man was also killed in action.
Harold Vaughan of Warboro House, Kenton, was born into a military family at Heavitree, Exeter, in 1878. His father Edward was a distinguished career officer who eventually retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After his retirement from the Army, Edward took up a position as agent to the Earl of Devon and moved to Warboro House, Kenton.
Harold took up a post as an inspector with the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. When war was declared, Harold Vaughan was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Royal Field Artillery (RFA).
The RFA’s purpose was to man the medium weight guns and mortars. They would be located near to the front line and tasked with shelling their gunnery counterparts in the enemy ranks and enemy trenches. The aim was to destroy barbed wire and obstacles likely to impede an Allied advance as troops went over the top. At the same time enemy shells would be attempting to destroy the Allies’ artillery.
On July 31, 1917, Vaughan was at Ypres as Adjutant commanding ‘A’ battery, 74th Brigade. He was hit by an enemy shell and killed instantly.
Harold Vaughan is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery, Belgium. He was a bachelor, so his next of kin were his parents, Edward and Katherine Vaughan, of Warboro House, Kenton.
After news of the losses both Captain Causley and Leiutenant Vaughan were commemorated in Kenton with a knell of the bells of the parish church. They were commemorated once again when present day bellringers of All Saints’ Church tolled the bells on Monday evening.