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Private David Jones, the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers

THIS WRITING IS FOR MY FRIENDS IN MIND OF ALL COMMON AND HIDDEN MEN … AND TO THE ENEMY FRONT-FIGHTERS WHO SHARED OUR PAINS AGAINST...

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sidney Greenfield, MC, the story continues



I’ve been doing some more reading and research after last week’s blog post on Sdney Greenfield. He was awarded the MC in July 1918. The citation as published in the London Gazette on 18th July reads


“2nd Lt. Sidney Richard, Greenfield, North’d Fus.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. As intelligence officer,when all communications had been cut owing to hostile shelling he went forward a distance of some 1,500 yards under intense hostile barrage and obtained important information which was urgently required. Throughout the whole period he rendered the greatest assistance to his commanding officer.”

 We can read in Greenfield's account that he and his CO, found the water tower apparently empty...


"Col. Robinson said ‘come on we had better investigate’. He led the way and I followed with the revolver drawn and ready for action as we approached the dilapidated building. No glass in the window and doors adrift. On reaching the building we peeped over the sills and found it was apparently empty so we climbed through the window and went through the back and looking out from broken windows we could see about 20-25 yards away from us the Germans busily digging themselves in and fortifying the remains of the tower. They did not appear to have any sentries and were just digging as hard as they could.
We returned as quickly as possible and the C.O had made up his mind and immediately said to Darlington. ‘Mr. Darlington, fix bayonets and take the tower’. Then turning to me said ‘Get back to H.Q. Tell brigade the situation and get the artillery here at once. I want a barrage round that tower’. Whilst I was getting back Darlington's men rushed forward with fixed bayonets and the Germans ran for their lives. They took the tower and its environs and the only casualty was Mr. Darlington himself who received a bullet through his neck and the next and only time I saw him again was as he lay on the stretcher being carried back to the dressing station."



I knew that Greenfield had survived the war but what happened to Mr William Aubrey Cecil Darlington who is last seen on a stretcher and not mentioned again by Greenfield. I sent a quick email to Jeremy Banning who replied with the good news that he didn't die of his wounds and also survived the war. 

Greenfield's account continues with the defence of the captured tower by Darlington and a Lieutenant McCubbin.


"Darlington’s platoon immediately started to prepare the defence of the position and later the front line was joined up. Meanwhile the Germans retaliated by putting down a box barrage around the tower enclosing not only Darlington's platoon but also another platoon which was in support commanded by Lieut. McCubbin. They had dug into a bank by the side of a small farm road as the field on the one side of the road was about 5ft higher than on the other. We held this position until relieved several days later. At one period we were very concerned at B.H.Q because the heavy barrage had destroyed all communication. The field line had been severed and barrage stopped anyone getting through. We had no knowledge as to what had happened inside that box. Did we still hold it or had the Germans counter attacked? Driven our fellows out?"

This is  reasonably typical of what tended to happen to communications, with head-quarters waiting for news and not knowing what had happened to the men. Greenfield then earns his Military Cross by going forwards to find out what has befallen them.




As it was essential to know what was happening the colonel told me to go and find out instructing me to take two orderlies instead of the usual one. As we approached the barrage, the shells were falling all around us. It seemed as though they were throwing everything they had from ‘coal boxes’ to ‘whizz bangs’. I noticed that at some time during the advance little cubby holes had been dug in the bank by the side of the road so I pressed forwards darting quickly from cubby hole to cubby hole until I was through the barrage. Here I found McCubbin and his platoon in a larger hole dug into the bank.
McCubbin was not very pleased to see me, why I do not know. What are you doing here Greenfield? Explaining that the C.O wanted to know if they were all well his reply was ‘Of course we are all right you get back quickly’. Having also enquired about Darlington’ s men who McCubbin presumed were ok. I returned with the news in the same way that I had come, just dodging between the shells. I’m sorry to say that neither of my orderlies had followed me through and I was too busy to realize it until I returned when I was greeted with the remark from one of them, ‘I never thought you'd come back Sir’.

I can't say that I blame the orderlies for staying put.  I'm also not surprised that McCubbin, whose platton was under attack was not that pleased to see him. Greenfield mentions him again later in his memoir referring to him as one of their toughest commanders.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Fiday Poetry from Clare Best and Butcher's Dog


I have a couple of items of poetry reading lined up for the weekend. The first is Clare Best's poem, Cell, which will unfold into a cell with artwork by Michaela Ridgway.  I've been saving this up until I had enough time to read it properly. I was going to describe this as a poetry treat. However the poem is about Christine Carpenter, a girl of fourteen who was at her own volition enclosed in a cell at St James' Church, Shere, perhaps compelling reading is a better description.

The eight issue of Butcher's Dog magazine arrived in the post during the last week with a gorgeous picture of a mermaid on the cover. This always has poems which are worth reading.

And the plant is my Jade plant (Crassula ovata) which has come into the house for the winter. It used to be my office desk plant but has a much happier existence these days, outside in the sunshine for the summer and on a cool but dry windowsill during the winter.

Whatever you are doing this weekend do make time to read a poem or two.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Following in the footsteps of Sidney Greenfield, MC, 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers




During this year’s battlefield’s tour with Jeremy Banning we went back to the area around the Wancourt tower above the river Cojeul.  I had a vivid memory from a previous occasion of Jeremy reading Second Lieutenant  Sidney Greenfield’s account of part of the battle of Arras and the capture of the tower.

This October as one of our party was not able to walk very far I had the chance to go up the hill on my own, reading Sidney’s report as I did so. 


Extract from memoir byMajor SR Greenfield MC – 05/8/1




















The lane which he will have had to follow to get to the tower is still as it was with the bank alongside, although the cubby holes are no longer there. 



"As it was essential to know what was happening the colonel told me to go and find out instructing me to take two orderlies instead of the usual one. As we approached the barrage, the shells were falling all around us. It seemed as though they were throwing everything they had from ‘coal boxes’ to ‘whizz bangs’. I noticed that at some time during the advance little cubby holes had been dug in the bank by the side of the road so I pressed forwards darting quickly from cubby hole to cubby hole until I was through the barrage. Here I found McCubbin and his platoon in a larger hole dug into the bank."



 On my walk I was accompanied by thrushes and blackbirds flitting through the hedge and feasting on the hawthorn rather than the shell barrage which Greenfield endured.  There is no sign of the tower, just a crossing of the ways on the high ground commanding the surrounding land and an excellent position.


Greenfield writes of his return journey from the tower,

"I have always been convinced that here I saw the most ghastly sights of my life. Lying against the bank was just the torso of a man. Head, arms and legs had been blown off I have often tried to persuade myself that this was just my imagination and that it was really a bundle of khaki clothing but I was quite sure at the time. The situation was a critical one and there was no time to think about anything apart from getting through. My concern was to keep alive and get on before the next shell exploded."








View from Wancourt Ridge

Greenfield survived the war. He had been underage (17 years) when he'd enlisted in September 1914. He was badly wounded during the battle of Passchendaele in October 1917 and was visited by his parents in France before he was able to return home.