Capture of Hill 60, 1915

Report  and map on the operations of the 5th Division 17-21 April 1915 about the capture of Hill 60, south east of Ypres, (Catalogue ref: WO 158/216)

Map shows the location of various work and assaulting parties and a system of C.Ts. [communication trenches] near Hill 60, (Catalogue ref: WO 158/216)

Glossary

G.O.C.: General Officer Commanding

Royal West Kent regiment (R.W. Kent Rgt)

The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I)

King’s Own Scottish Borderers (K.O.S. Borders)

Transcript

  1. I beg to forward herewith report on the operations of the 5th Division between the dates of April 17th and April 21st, dealing with the capture of Hill 60, South East of YPRES.

Reports which go fully into details, by Brig. General R. Wanless O’Gowan, Commanding 13th Infantry Brigade and Brig. General E. Northey A.D.C., Commanding 15th Infantry Brigade, who in succession commanded the troops engaged in the operations, are attached.

  1. Hill 60, a small, steeply-escarped hill, enabled the enemy to see into the ground behind the 5th Division lines, and was useful to him as an observation station. I considered its capture would strengthen my position.
  2. Mining operations had been begun in the early part of March by Major Norton Griffiths R.E. and the 171st Mining Company, whilst the 28th Division was holding the line which the 5th Division now holds.

It is due to the ability with which these mining operations were carried out that the assault on the hill was so immediately successful, and that the loss during the actual assault was small.

  1. For some days before the attack, the 15th Infantry Brigade – then holding the trenches – were engaged in preparing positions to enable the assaulting columns to assemble.

The 13th Infantry Brigade who were in reserve and part of which under Br. Gen. R.Wanless O’Gowan was to carry out the assault, were employed in rehearsing the assault on plans of our own and the enemy’s trenches, spitlocked out on the ground.

  1. During the night 16th/17th, troops destined for the attack (2nd K.O.S.B., 1st R.W. Kent Rgt., and 2nd Home Cos. Co. R.E.), under command of Brig. General R.Wanless O’Gowan, were moved into position.

Mines were exploded at 7p.m. on April 17th, and the assault immediately took place and was successful. (Operation Order No.50 of 5th Division attached.)

  1. Severe fighting ensued all night. The enemy kept up a constant and heavy artillery fire and attacked incessantly, using hand grenades freely and with great effect.

At 1.30 am. on 18th, the Officer Commanding 1st Bn. Royal West Kent Regt. who had carried out the assault, reported that he had firmly established a good fire trench on the hill and dug two good communication trenches.

  1. At 3.30am. the 2nd K.O.S.B’s. relieved the 1st Royal West Kents in the new trench. Owing to casualties amongst several senior officers at the time, it would appear that a little ground was lost during this relief.

At [in pencil – 5.30am] the 18th two companies of the 2nd Bn. Duke of Wellington’s Regt. Were pushed up from ZILLEBEKE pond to the trenches and were replaced at the latter place by two companies of the 2nd Bn. K.O.Y.L.I. from YPRES.

  1. At about 7am., from reports received it appeared to me that our troops had been pushed from the crest of the hill. I informed the G.O.C. 13th Infantry Brigade that if the hill had been lost it must be recaptured and that all available reserves are placed at his disposal for this purpose. (Telegrams G.393 attached).

About this time the 9th London Regt was ordered to march from OUDERDOM to YPRES and the 1st Bn. East Surrey Regt. at KRUISSTRAAT were directed to hold themselves in readiness to move.

Both these battalions were placed at the disposal of the G.O.C. 13th Infantry Brigade.

By 7.30 am. The 2nd Bn. Duke of Wellington’s Regt. Had reached the front and were engaged in relieving the 1st Bn. Royal West Kent Regt. And the 2nd Batallion. K.O.S. Borderers; the latter two battalions were afterwards withdrawn into reserve.

  1. During the 18th, our troops held their positions on the Hill under a tremendous bombardment and constant attacks by hand grenades but were slowly pushed back below the crest.

Brig. General Wanless O’Gowan considered a counter-attack should take place in the evening. In this I concurred, stating that I considered it better that the attack should take place that evening rather than later when the enemy could have had time to strengthen his position. (Telegram G.461 attached).

I subsequently issues orders for the recapture of the crest. (Memorandum G.475 attached).

The Bedfordshire Regt. (15th Infantry Brigade) and the 1st East Surrey Regt. (14th Infantry Brigade were ordered forward during the afternoon to take the place of the 1st Royal West Kent Regt. And 2nd K.O.S. Borderers.

The 59th Field Company Royal Engineers were also placed at the disposal of General Officer in Command, 13th Infantry Brigade and were employed throughout the remainder of the operation.

  1. At 6 pm. Instead of 5 pm. As originally arranged) on the 18th, the hill was again attacked, the assault being carried out by the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regt. And the 2nd Bn. K.O.Y.L.I. and at 6.55 pm. I heard that the hill was once more held in strength by us.
  2. At 11.30 pm. I learnt that the position of the 2/D, of W. Rgt. and the 2/K.O.Y.L.I. on the hill was now satisfactory and that they were firmly established, but that the losses had been heavy and the men were a good deal exhausted.

I accordingly ordered that these battalions should be relieved by the 1st East Surrey Regt. ½ Bn. 1st Bedfordshire Rgt. And the 9th London Regt. And that on completion of relief Brig. General E. Northey should take over command from Brig.General R.Wanless O’Gowan (Telegram G.A.116.attached).

This relief was successfully accomplished.

  1. During the 19th the hill and vicinity were held by the 1st Bedfordshire Regt., 1st Bn. East Surrey Regt., and 9th London Regt. Under a bombardment of tremendous intensity; officers who have served throughout the war describe it as the heaviest they have experienced.
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