On Thursday almost 30 people showed up for the September Teesside BNP meeting. A number of people spoke including Alan O’reilly, James MacPherson and special guest speaker Harrogate Organiser Tom Linden. All of the speeches were fantastic and I would just like to show Alan O’reilly’s speech. I hope you enjoy.
90 Years On
We are 90 years on from the 3rd Battle of Ypres, fought in
It was fought between July 31st and
Last Surviving Trench Veteran
A Mr Harry Patch is
He took part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry[i].
Mr Patch says that for the last 90 years, he has never forgotten his three comrades-in-arms who were killed on
He says therefore that September 22nd is his Remembrance Day.
That is why I thought it particularly suitable that we should think about this subject at the meeting on this date.
The townsfolk of
In the wall surrounding the town of
Every day, at local time, the police stop the traffic via the Menin Gate and 2 buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade sound The Last Post beneath the gate’s massive stone arch.
This daily ceremony was started on
The walls of the arch are inscribed with the names of 54,896 officers and men from
When the Menin Gate was built, it was found not to be large enough to contain all the names of the missing men.
Another 34,984 such names, of men who fell in the salient between
Passchendaele was captured by the Canadians on
During the battle, the area where the cemetery now stands was occupied by many concrete blockhouses or pillboxes, manned by German machine gunners. The Geordie soldiers of the 50th Northumbrian Division likened these blockhouses to cottages along the banks of the River Tyne and called the area Tyne Cot. The name has stuck to this day.
The graves at Tyne Cot include 2 winners of the Victoria Cross, buried close to where they won their awards - and lost their lives.
They were both Australians; Captain Clarence Jeffries and Sergeant Lewis McGee.
Sergeant McGee came from
Captain Jeffries came from
Wallsend is near the city of
During the Iraq War, some controversy surrounded the award of a VC to a black man who drove his vehicle away from a post of danger while the vehicles was on fire. It was suggested that because the recipient was black, the award was a political VC.
Be that as it may, it prompts the question, what did it take to win a Victoria Cross in WW1?
An extract from The London Gazette, No. 30433, dated 18th Dec., 1917, records the following about Captain Jeffries:- “For most conspicuous bravery in attack, when his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire from concrete emplacements. Organising a party, he rushed one emplacement, capturing four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners. He then led his company forward under extremely heavy enemy artillery barrage and enfilade machine-gun fire to the objective. Later, he again organised a successful attack on a machine-gun emplacement, capturing two machine guns and thirty more prisoners. This gallant officer was killed during the attack, but it was entirely due to his bravery and initiative that the centre of the attack was not held up for a lengthy period. His example had a most inspiring influence.”
Sergeant McGee was killed in a similar attack, displaying similar bravery. Their deeds were magnificent but the news reports must have been cold comfort to the loved ones who got the telegrams, like Eileen Rose.
But you can judge for yourself whether or not you think that Iraq VC was a political one.
As indicated, the
One researcher has reported that[iii]
“Of all the British dead of the Great War, all theatres, over a third were buried in the
That amounts to over 300,000 individuals from
Purnell’s History of the First World War, Volume 6, Page 2358, puts the total casualty figures for the 3rd Battle of Ypres at 524,000; 200,000 German, 324,000 British and Allies,.
Each yard of ground gained during the battle cost
Amongst the Allied casualties were 80,000 or 90,000 dead and missing.
The missing were almost half the total of fatal casualties and consist of those individuals whose remains were never found. Their names are commemorated on the panels of either the Menin Gate or
Of course, the occupants of many of the graves in Tyne Cot and other WW1 cemeteries were unidentified and the inscription of the headstone reads: A Soldier of the Great War, 1914-1918, Known Unto God.
That expression Known Unto God is a quotation from a 1611 Authorised King James Bible. The English-speaking peoples of
It is one thing that unites them. But they were united in 1914-18 and in 1939-45 - and won the victory each time.
Like the BNP song says, they stood together
We should remember that as well.
In fact, at the outbreak of WW1, the Canadian Prime Minister said, “When
The Australian Prime Minister said, “If
The young men proved it so. These are the ties of blood and race that our present leaders despise and are trying to destroy. They have to be resisted.
Many sources are available that will describe the course of the battle. It is not my purpose to go over that here. What are most important are the recollections of individuals[iv], [v], [vi] who endured the battle.
They highlighted various aspects of the campaign.
Corporal Joseph Pincombe spoke of the mud and the incessant shelling:
“We had to go through Ypres and up the Menin Road…Everywhere, as far as you could see, there were spurts of earth from shells bursting and bursts of shrapnel and high explosive…We could see stretcher-bearers coming through the mud to bring the wounded out. They were up to their knees in it, wallowing in it, struggling up carrying their stretchers to the field dressing-stations at the roadside. We could see the doctors and orderlies outside, working in their shirtsleeves, even in the rain, and everywhere, all over the road and shoved to the side were broken wagons, gun carriages and dead horses. You couldn’t speak, the gunfire was so terrific, but you don’t really hear the explosions individually – you just see them going off like geysers shooting up in the air. As far as you could see in front of you and to either side, there was nothing but mud, mud, mud for miles and just a few stumps of trees here and there and all hell let loose around you.”
Movement over many parts of the battlefield was only possible by means of miles of planking, called duckboards laid down by the Royal Engineers and the Pioneer Corps.
Private Richard Mercer spoke of these duckboards and their particular hazards:
“Passchendaele was just a terrible, terrible place. We used to walk along these wooden duckboards — something like ladders laid on the ground. The Germans would concentrate on these things. If a man was hit and wounded and fell off he could easily drown in the mud and never be seen again. You just did not want to go off the duckboards.”
In the 3rd Battle of Ypres, the Germans used for the first time the terror weapon of mustard gas, a vaporising liquid that causes hideous burns and blisters.
Padre William Doyle spoke of his horror at the sight of a victim:
“The first thing I saw almost unnerved me – a young soldier lying on his back, his hands and face a mass of blue phosphorus flame. He was the first victim I had seen of the new mustard gas the Germans were using.”
As in any battle, if you were seriously wounded and not long for this world, it was good to have a mate beside you.
Private Harry Patch was in a situation like that:
“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age [nineteen]. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last sixty seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother.’ I didn't see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence. I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.
“Some of the boys buried here are the same age as me, killed on the same day I was fighting [aged nineteen]. Any one of them could have been me. I didn't know whether I would last longer than five minutes. We were the Poor Bloody Infantry and we were expendable. What a terrible waste.”
I’ve mentioned the Dominion troops.
Private Reginald Le Brun was a Canadian machine gunner. Like many Dominion soldiers, he was a first generation colonial. He had been born in the Channel Island of Jersey and afterwards he and his parents had emigrated to
He said this about seeing most of his mates killed and wounded, something that happened to many WW1 survivors.
“They pushed the machine-guns right out in front. There was nothing between us and the Germans across the swamp. Three times during the night they shelled us heavily, and we had to keep on spraying bullets into the darkness to keep them from advancing. The night was alive with bullets. By morning, of our team of six, only my buddy Private Tombes and I were left. Then came the burst that got Tombes. It got him right in the head. His blood [and everything] spattered all over the front of my greatcoat and gas-mask. I was there trying to wipe it all off. It was a terrible feeling to be the only one left.”
Women as well as men served in the
Sister Jean Calder, who served in a Casualty Clearing Station:
“We’d had boys coming in all week…and we’d been busy, but the ones we got at the weekend were in a shocking state, because so many of them had been lying out in the mud before they could be picked up by the first-aid orderlies. Their clothes were simply filthy…We had to cut them off and do what we could. But it was too late for a lot of them, and many a one lost an arm or a leg that would have healed up right away if he’d been brought straight in. We felt terribly sorry for them but we had to try not to show our feelings, because it would never have done. We’d all have been sunk in gloom and then we’d have been no good to the men…But it was hard not to show sympathy.”
You can understand why the lads tended to regard the nursing Sisters as “The Roses of No-man’s Land.”
No Blacks or Indians
No black African or Indian units fought at Passchendaele. It was recognised by the end of 1915 that their infantry could not withstand the prolonged, combined cold and wet of the autumn and winter months on the Western Front.
No disrespect to those races but I know of no complaints of discrimination resulting from that conclusion. However, it raises the question, why populate a country like
When Harry Patch made his first visit back to the Flanders salient about three years ago, he said to his driver that he did not want to go anywhere near Pilkem Ridge. Pilkem Ridge is on the extreme left of the salient and it was the place where Harry was wounded and his three mates were killed. The memories were still painful, after almost 90 years.
But later on during the visit, he asked to be taken up to Pilkem so that he could place a wreath at the memorial, in memory of his three friends. And so he did.
He attached a card to the wreath and it read, “You have never been forgotten.”
And we should never forget.
We owe so much to the men – and women- who served in Flanders Fields. It’s our fight now, for race and nation. Let’s keep on until we win the victory, like they did. Thank you.
[iv] They Called It Passchendaele by Lyn MacDonald, Michael Joseph, 1978