However, they are not the same texts. Most of the English text is translated in Dutch but in the Dutch text are also some specific details who could be of interest for Belgian readers. The English text is from the late Brigadier John H. Gray, a good friend who gives me already more than 10 years ago the permission to translate and adapt his texts.
If you want to use text and/or maps, please remind the source.
De Nederlandse tekst wordt gevolgd door de Engelse. Het is niet dezelfde tekst, de Nederlandse tekst is langer en bevat meer informatie (ook bibliografie toegevoegd) welke nu bekend is. de Engelstalige tekst is van de hand van Brigadier John H. Gray die mij toestemming gaf zijn teksten te gebruiken. Indien men wil tekst en/of kaarten gebruiken wil dan de oorsprong vermelden.
|polderhoek park in 1914, quasy ongeschonden|
|Kasteel/chateau voor WOI/before WWI|
De Duitsers behoorden tot I/IR163 dat de polderhoekstellingen in handen had
De verrassing was echter niet zoals gepland, de Duitsers hadden geen beschutting gezocht zoals verwacht maar hun wachtposten waren waakzaam en ze lagen hen, zoals gewoonlijk, af te wachten op hun bunkers en in bemande granaattrechters. De machinegeweren gaven hen een warm onthaal en snel in de wildernis tussen de boomstronken waar de prikkeldraad kapot geschoten was.
Inderdaad, sinds de Slag van Passendale was de Nieuw-Zeelandse divisie - die het kruim van haar troepen daar verloren had tijdens de aanvallen op 4 en 12 oktober – gereorganiseerd met nieuwe versterkingen voor wie dit de vuurdoop werd. Het merendeel van de getrainde soldaten, die Passendale overleefd hadden, bekochten hun voorbeeldige moed en strijdlust bij Polderhoek met de dood. getrainde soldaten verloren .
|Kasteel Polderhoek tijdens de oorlog|
Hierdoor kon een concentratie van vijandelijke troepen die zich klaarmaakten voor een tegenaanval tussen Polderhoek en Geluveld, rond 14.30 uur, onmiddellijk gedetecteerd worden. Met een lichte loopgraafmortier werd vanuit Jericho de vijand uiteen gedreven. Bij hun overhaaste vlucht lieten ze hun geweren en uitrusting achter. De Nelson compagnie kon wraak nemen en weinig van de vluchtende Duitsers bereikten Geluveld. De vijandelijke aanval kon niet uitgevoerd worden en Duitse brancardiers waren onder dekking van de Rode Kruisvlag vanuit de Meenseweg uren later nog bezig op die plaats.
Gedurende de ganse dag werden de nieuwe stellingen alsook de toegangswegen vanaf Veldhoek bestookt door de Duitse artillerie. Om 14.00 uur werd er nog een vijandelijk spervuur gelegd doch deze keer zonder de gebruikelijke infanterieaanval. Na het invallen van de duisternis werden de aanvallende troepen afgelost door de andere compagnieën en het consolidatiewerk was afgelopen.
Maori Pioniers delfden 2 communicatieloopgraven vanuit een nieuw aangelegde loopgraaf naar de oude posities. Patrouilles gingen tot 50 yards van het kasteel en zagen de Duitse aflossing. Bij dageraad van 5 december probeerde een groep Duitsers van 80 man, die zich ’s nachts hadden verzameld, een aanval uit te voeren op de linkerflank. Ze konden tot 30 yards van de NZ posities penetreren. Door het hevig verzet van de Otago’s verloren de Duitsers de helft van hun manschappen en moesten ze zich onverrichterzake terugtrekken.
THE NEW ZEALAND DIVISION
IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS
MAY 1916 TO NOVEMBER 1918
Brigadier John H. Gray
than north of the Ypres-Roulers railway line. Its front ranged from Tiber, 1000 yards south of
Passchaendale for nearly five miles south along the key Broodseinde Ridge, in front of Polygon Wood and
down to the Reutelbeke, within a mile of the Menin Road near Gheluvelt, still held by the enemy.
NZ Div took command of the Corps right sector on 16 November 1917. Its line extended for about 1.5 miles from the salient at the In de Ster Cabaret through the ruins of Reutel, and across the slopes of Cameron Covert. It was not a healthy place to be. Outposts in these two places were enfiladed from the main German defenses 1000 yards or so to the east at Becelaere. The enemy also had outposts in and about the series of copses which culminated in the substantial Juniper Wood.
HQ NZ Div was in a hutted camp 2 miles south-west of Ypres, and on 5 December the divisional artillery established its gun lines near Hooge Crater, Westhoek and Glencorse Wood. On the very evening of 16 November a German gas bombardment was delivered at midnight along the whole Corps front, lasting several hours. Two nights later there was a patrol clash just south of the Cabaret referred to. It was important to deny the enemy a foothold on the plateau in that area, as this would yield him valuable observation. The whole of the Broodseinde Ridge was hard-won ground, vital to the Allies.
German aircraft were active overhead at that time, and even light trench mortars were brought into play in an anti-aircraft role. One succeeded in blowing a wing off a low-flying aircraft, which made a crippled descent behind the German lines. On its right boundary the division was exposed to enfilade fire not only from the east as described, but also from the Gheluvelt Ridge to the south.
Between the Reutelbeek and the Scherriabeek was a spur on which the fortified ruins of the Polderhoek Chateau and a number of pillboxes were located. This had been won in past battles but subsequently lost to German counter-attacks. South of the Scherriabeke, the land rose again to the village of Gheluvelt and the Menin road; all of these positions posed additional threats to the occupancy of the divisional sector.
Ideally both Polderhoek and Gheluvelt needed to be cleared of the enemy, but meantime it was decided to clear the spur and occupy the ruins of the chateau and its fortifications.
|Polderhoek chateau during the war|
Polderhoek Chateau - the Plan:
An attack from the flank and rear from existing positions across the Reutelbeek was considered and rejected.
Deadly fire would rake the Reutelbeek Valley from Beceleare and Juniper Wood, but additionally, the stream itself was virtually unfordable, being 30 feet wide and flanked by a morass of soft mud into which patrols from Cameron Covert sank up to their knees. Moreover, the location of the gun lines was such that the supporting barrage would be in enfilade.
The second alternative was to attack frontally down the spur from adjacent IX Corps positions. These provided assembly trenches in close proximity to the chateau and a frontal barrage could be obtained. This was decided on.
Artillery support would be provided by one Australian and two British units ( pending the arrival immediately after the battle of the New Zealand batteries), but controlled by the Commander Royal Artillery, NZ Division who had set up his HQ in the Ypres area on15 November.
The New Zealand attack was to be undertaken by 2nd Infantry Brigade. On the evening of 25 November, in a
snowstorm 2nd Canterbury took over the front from the Reutelbeke to the Scherriabeke and engaged in
digging to create adequate assembly trenches. Heavy as well as field artillery brought down concentrations
on the target from the 28th. Both sides exchanged fire over the next few days, and both caused damage. A
routine of super-heavy artillery fire on the chateau area (and elsewhere) by day was established.
The attack was set for 1200 hours on 3 December. It was expected that the element of surprise through the attack being launched when least expected would off-set the obvious daylight disadvantages. Smoke would be used to blind the enemy on the Becelaere and Gheluvelt features, which would also be subjected to heavy concentrations of gas and high explosive. There would be no preliminary bombardment on the target, as this would obviate surprise. At one and the same moment the barraging guns would open and the infantry would rush to the assault. It was about 200 yards from the start line to the chateau.
Each battalion would attack with two companies advancing in two waves. The first wave would advance to an intermediate (Dotted Red) line 50 yards beyond the building; the second wave then passing through
after a ten-minute pause in the barrage to take, and consolidate on the final objective 300 yards further on
(The Red Line).
On the assaulting companies leaving the assembly trenches, counter-attack companies were to move up and
occupy the positions vacated. Further reserve companies were detailed to move in after dark to relieve the
companies in the newly established front line; complete its consolidation and erect wire fronting it.
The Red Line aimed at circling the whole of the grounds and ruins and at the same time covering the southern and south-eastern flanks. The Chateau itself fell within the area of 1st Otago on the left. It had a much wider frontage than its sister battalion. However 1st Canterbury not only had to attack a series of pillboxes, the stables and the
Manager’s House, but it would also provide a defensive flank on the south overlooking the Scherriabeek Valley, facing Gheluvelt. The Canterbury outer flank was much more exposed to attack from there than that of Otago, which was largely protected on its left by the muddy bed of the Reutelbeke.
Problems arose immediately as the barrage opened and the assaulting troops came out into the open, in the form of heavy casualties amongst the left of 1st Otago through the artillery firing short. Although the fixed
starting line for the artillery barrage was 150 yards in front of the assembly trenches, much of the entire
weight of the barrage fell on the area occupied by the infantry which had no option other than to go
forward through it.
In fairness to the gunners it has to be said that they had the same problem as at Bellevue Spur; the muddy ground provided unstable platforms and the guns had to be re-laid every few shots.
Hopes of catching the enemy off-guard were not realized; the daily heavy artillery bombardment had not driven him underground, and machine-gun fire began immediately from the pillboxes in front, and from the Gheluvelt Ridge on the right flank.
In that direction, the plans miscarried from the outset. A strong west wind dissipated the protective smoke barrage and the right-flanking company took heavy casualties both from this enfilade fire, and from
strongpoints to the front. Nonetheless, they continued to fight their way forward.
A particularly gallant incident took place on this flank. An enemy strongpoint manned by 16 Germans was proving to be stubborn. The section commander and several men attacking it were killed. Private H.J. Nicholas then rushed forward, followed by his section, and reached the parapet before the occupants
realised it. He shot the platoon commander who confronted him, and jumped down amongst the remainder with the bayonet and both his own and German bombs lying about. He killed the whole of the garrison single-handed except four wounded whom he took prisoner.
Private Henry James Nicholas was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross (A 26 year-old carpenter from Christchurch on enlistment, Private Nicholas continued to serve with his company, on another occasion being awarded the Military Medal. Sergeant HJ Nicholas VC MM was killed in action at Beaudignies, near Le Quesnoy on 23 October 1918. He was buried in Vertigneul churchyard.
Belatedly, in 2005 a memorial is being constructed on the banks of the River Avon in Christchurch, near the Bridge of Remembrance, to honour the city’s only Victoria Cross holder of World War l.)
Beyond this point, however, the remnants of the company were held up by another strongpoint. A platoon sent up by the Support Company could make no impression. On the left 1st Otago were not subject to the same devastating flanking fire and at first made good progress. They subdued a pillbox but then came under fire from the chateau and were held up on much the same line as Canterbury; about 150 yards short of the first objective.
By now both battalions had lost half of their effectives including many officers and NCOs. Only 30 prisoners had been taken. There was no option for the attackers but to dig in where they were. This was some 200 yards forward of the start line, but short even of the intermediate objective, let alone the Red Line. From these positions they were able to disperse an enemy force assembling in the upper part of the valley, causing them casualties. However, during the evening the Germans were able to reinforce their garrison in the chateau itself, denying 2nd Brigade an intended enveloping movement from the Reutelbeke slopes.
The recovery of wounded proceeded throughout the night, and on the morning of 4 December enemy forces mustering to the east were driven back in disorder by artillery fire towards Becelaere.
After dark other companies relieved the assaulting troops and consolidation was completed; a strong line being constructed by the Maori Pioneer Battalion. At dawn on the 5th a party of about 80 Germans endeavored to surprise the left flank but were driven off with 50% casualties. In the evening of 5 December, the new positions were handed over to IX Corps troops and 2nd Brigade withdrew into reserve.
While the costly advance achieved some minor local benefit, the aim of the attack was not achieved. Moreover, the ground captured was recovered by the Germans nine days later.
|memorial for Nicholas in the Oude Kortrijkstraat, Zonnebeke|
The main reason for the failure was put down to inadequate training and the inexperience of the troops,
many of whom were reinforcements following the heavy losses in October 1917. The only experienced
officers and NCOs who took part had been in the B Team for the Passchendaele battles (the survivors from
there were B Team for Polderhoek) Virtually all of the officers in the assaulting companies became
casualties on 3 December and valuable NCOs were also lost. Shorn of this leadership, and to some extent
already demoralized by the artillery shortcomings, the infantry did not perform to the usual high standards.
The mutually supporting German pillboxes were largely undamaged by artillery fire and brought immediate machine-gun fire to bear, while the dissipation of the smokescreen by a strong westerly wind enabled the machine-gunners in Gheluvelt to inflict heavy casualties on 1st Canterbury.
Holding the Line - to February 1918:
At the beginning of December, the divisional front was extended a further 500 yards east of Molenaarelsthoek. One brigade held the short southern flank in Cameron Covert between the Reutelbeke and the Polygonebeke with one battalion and three in reserve and the other forward brigade the northern sub-sectors of Reutel Judge and Noordemhoek with three battalions in the line.
Up to the end of 1917, the Allied posture had been on the basis of an early resumption of the offensive.
However it soon became apparent that the Russian collapse would be followed by a German drive on the Western Front in the spring and this fact, together with the desirability of waiting for the American forces indicated a need to strengthen defenses instead.
This became the priority on the NZ Div front as elsewhere and a great deal of effort was made to this end in difficult winter conditions. Minor raids and skirmishes by both sides continued, and from time to time
artillery fire intensified. There was a great deal of shelling on cross-roads and other centers of activity and casualties were occasioned in rear areas.