Fig 1 Sketch from Jack’s Description of the movements of Corporal John Arthur Wilson,  MCG, October 1917.

My grandfather drew a version of this in biro when in his 97th year; his eye-sight was very poor. I redrew it as you see, with him adding comment and annotations. Houthoulst Forrest is a bit out, there is a rail track and I haven’t drawn it strictly North-South.

From Haig’s despatches:

 After the middle of October the weather improved, and on the 22nd October two successful operations, in which we captured over 200 prisoners and gained positions of considerable local importance east of Poelcappelle and within the southern edge of Houthulst Forest, were undertaken by us, in the one case by east-county and Northumberland troops (18th and 34th Divisions), and in the other by west-county and Scots battalions (35th Division, Major- General G. Mc. Franks) in co-operation with the French.

My goal, my pleasure, reliving stories he first started telling me on his knee after Sunday Lunch age 6 or so is tp be there with him, to time travel and by following closely in his footsteps survive as he did (just).

A scratch is all he suffered during the 1 1/2 years he was out there (April 1916 to December 1917).

The silver ID bracelet Jack had made in Grantham. 13203. 104 MGC.

Courtesy of published maps and Google Earth I am gradually picking out the spots. In 1992 he attended the 75th anniversary of Passchendaele and marked the spots where he buried Dick Piper and Harry Gartenfeld. Even after those years, however ‘dull and featureless’ the landscape, and however broken it had been in his time, he was able to pick out the exact spot where these men died.

Is it feasible that the Jerry Prisoner who took can be identified? Handed over to Captain Blair in early October? Somewhere out by International Corner? This would have been after 7th December when it started to get foggy.

His papers came through at the end of December 1917, around the 27th I believe. A couple of officers gave him pictures of themselves, but who could this be?

A senior officer of the Machine Gun Corps who gave this picture to Corporal J A Wilson on 27th December 1917 as he headed home to train with the Royal Flying Corps.

Who is it?

Haig’s Despatches

‘After the middle of October the weather improved, and on the 22nd October two successful operations, in which we captured over 200 prisoners and gained positions of considerable local importance east of Poelcappelle and within the southern edge of Houthulst Forest, were undertaken by us, in the one case by east-county and Northumberland troops (18th and 34th Divisions), and in the other by west-county and Scots battalions (35th Division, Major- General G. Mc. Franks) in co-operation with the French’. Haig’s Despatch

NOTES

Scanning ‘The Road to Passchendaele’ John Terraine 1977 I am struck by the statement that has Haig wanting to take Passchendaele Ridge in order to have command of the open land to the east in order to use cavalry. Also Lord French’s criticism to the War Cabinet that Haig keeps making the same mistakes. From Birdwood ‘Khaki and Gown’  p 316.

British Army Maps:

Ypres before July 1917 Attacks

Ypres October 1917

Comments
  1. Johan Vanbeselaere says:

    living in Poelkapelle and member of the Poelcapelle 1917 Association, and if I can be of any help, let me know !

    Johan Vanbeselaere

    • Delighted to know you. My interest is to recreate a 10 day period around October 15 to 25 1917. I have a recording of my grandfather describing what he went through. How can our generation ever comprehend uts awfulness?

  2. Keith Seaton says:

    My great uncle Roland Vine died on the 15th October and is buried at Poelcapelle.

    • mymindbursts says:

      October 1917 was the crunch for my grandfather based in the area between International Corner. It is when his closest mates died.

      • Keith Seaton says:

        Roland Vine was in the 10th Essex. In the book “With the 10th Essex in France it says that they relieved the 55th Brigade after the 10th October but only suffered one loss of the Adjutant before the 22nd when the attack on Poelcapelle was made. This begs the question as to how did Roland die on the 15th.

      • mymindbursts says:

        I think that dates when someone died can easily be a few days out as official notice of the death, or missing in action will confuse this. I know that two men my grandfather burried outside their pillbox died a coulpe of days before the dates given – he was even reported as missing and presumed dead only to finally be relieved after a week behind a machine gun – this the last week of October 1917 in a pillbox on the edge of Houthulst Forest known as ‘Courage Post’.

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