September 24th, 2016

Stories in memory of Gheluvelt offensive

Updated: 9:48 am, May 07, 2015

THE STORY of the 357 Worcestershire men who saved the Allies from losing the First World War is set to be told, thanks to an Alcester man.

For more than two years former journalist Mark Higgitt has been researching the story behind the 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment who ran through murderous shellfire to halt the Germans’ triumphal march up the Menin Road to Ypres and on to the Channel ports on Saturday, October 31, 1914.

Now the full story of The Battle of Gheluvelt will be told in a special audio documentary available via a new website to mark the centenary of the offensive, which has largely been forgotten by the British public.

And Mark said that was his inspiration for the project.

“I realised, a couple of years ago, that – amid all the other events going on – there would only be one opportunity to commemorate the centenary in this way, a documentary that could be listened to, perhaps by people in 100 years time.” he said.

“To be honest, when I started to explore what would be involved, it seemed a far-fetched ambition. But, with the help of the team that runs the Mercian Regimental archive, and many other people with a greater insight into what happened than me, it’s gradually happened.”

The Worcesters, which would have included many men from Redditch and Alcester, were the last hope of King and Country when they launched their counter-attack on Gheluvelt Chateau, after the enemy had broken the British line.

Their achievement against overwhelming odds was described by Commander-in-Chief Sir John French as “the longest half-hour of my life.”

The 60-minute documentary follows the 2nd Worcesters – commanded on the day of the battle by Major Edward Hankey – from their arrival in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, through the retreat from Mons and on to the fabled ‘Race to the Sea’, which saw them end up as part of the thin Allied line defending the strategically important weaving town of Ypres, in Flanders.

Saturday, October 31, 1914, was the day the Germans broke through the line. The Worcesters were the last throw of the dice to halt the advance.

The documentary includes many voices related to the men who fought that day, as well as that of Brummie lance-corporal William Finch, whose testimony was recorded in in 1984, when he was 95.

The project has been backed by Worcester Warriors and the Duckworth Worcestershire Trust.

Visit www.battleofgheluvelt.co.uk to listen to the documentary.

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