1st Essex at Monchy le Preux in 1917


In April 1917 the Battalion moved to Arras where they were ordered to relieve the 87th Brigade at Monchy le Preux.

On 14 April 1917 an attack was planned on some high ground known as infantry hill by the 1st Essex and the Newfoundlanders.

The advance included W Company - Captain R E G Carolin , Y Company - Captain J Tomlinson, Z Company - Captain C R Brown MC and X Company - Captain H J B Foster.

The initial advance was successful with ground captured and prisoners taken although Captain Carolin was badly wounded.

A heavy German artillery barrage plus a counter attack reversed the situation with X company especially badly hit.

The Adjutant, Lieutenant C P Lawson and Sergeant Major Bailey, reorganised the remains of X Company and stood against the onslaught from the Third Bavarian troops that were considered amongst Germany's finest.

With the reserve units called up the defensive line held out against the counter attack although 1st Essex found that 17 of their 31 Officers and 644 of their 892 other ranks were either killed, injured or missing.

Officer to fall were Captain H J B Foster ( Bedfordshire Reg) Lieut C R Brown MC , 2nd Lieut S H R Eyre, 2nd Lieut C H Flinn, 2nd Lieut H R Newth ( 5th Essex) , 2nd Lieut P D Combs ( 7th Essex) and 2nd Lieut G D Turk.

208 men from 1st Essex were taken as prisoners by the Germans. Many of these were injured and 16 subsequently died in captivity.

The CWG Cemetery on Monchy le Preux demonstrates clearly the sacrifice of the 1st Essex on this day.

Both 1st Essex and the Newfoundlanders were withdrawn to reserve but within a few days the remains of the two Battalions were combined  and returned to the trenches. The battalion was named the 1st Newfound Essex Battalion with strength of just 400.

On 23rd April 1917 the battalion was relieved and moved to Simencourt under their new commander, Sir George Stirling Bart, DSO who had previously commanded the 2nd Essex.

The arrival of new recruits enabled the battalions to return to their normal names and Essex were placed on the reserve list. By 11th May 1917 they were back in the line for another month during which Lieut B O Weaver was killed during an advance and Captain K M Wearne, Captain M A Chawner and Lieut M C W Kortright were killed when a shell blow out a dugout. Twelve other ranks were killed and 45 wounded mainly as a result of enemy shelling.