Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Hugh Boscawen Story


           Shortly after midnight of 3 Oct 1917, the 2nd Wellington Battalion began to assemble, Taranaki Company (Major Hamilton) and Ruahine Company (Capt. H. F. Boscawen) moved via St. Julien Road and assembled east of the Hanebeek, while the other two companies moved along the road past Spree Farm (Roeselare street these days) and assembled in rear of Schuler Galleries. All were in position by 4 o'clock a.m., with 2nd Battalion headquarters at Schuler Farm.

Zero hour was fixed for 6 o'clock in the morning of 4 Oct. About midnight the weather had broken and light rain started to fall. It was a wet, bleak morning with a cold wind blowing from the German lines, and pitch dark, as they mustered for the attack.

At 6 o'clock, zero hour, the New Zealand artillery barrage came down and the attack commenced.

extract from the CWGC register
The 2nd Wellington Battalion had gone no distance before an enemy shell landed among Ruahine Company's headquarters and killed Captain Hugh Townshend Boscawen, commanding that company, and his two runners!

Boscawen was 38 and a veteran of the South African War. He was living with his wife Kathleen in Te Kuiti before the war, he was a butter factory manager in a dairy company in Te Kuiti. He had also a daughter Kathleen Patricia who was born on 05/05/1910.
Boscawen with his daughter shortly before he went to the war

His family went to Takapuna, Auckland when he enlisted.
He enlisted for the duration of the war on  14/08/1914. He was in Gallipoli, Egypt and France. He was wounded in action on  17/09/1916 but remained on duty. He was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's despatches of 09 April 1917. He was promoted captain on 9 June 1917 and was wounded in action again on 28 July. He was detached to the Brigade as Transport Officer He rejoined his battalion on 09/08/1917 and proceeded on leave to the UK on 27/08/17. He rejoined his battalion on 7 September 1917.

Boscawen was buried nearby the place he died. Also some other soldiers from his company have been buried on that spot. Private Albert August Olson was one of them, he was only two months at the battalion when he was killed.
The 36 years old miner from Hikurangi, Taranaki was single.  He enlisted in November 1916. He was in France from end of July 1917.  The action at  ’s Graventafel was probably the first time he saw action.

Next to Olson Private Wifred Denham Tunks was buried. Tunks was a student when he enlisted in 1915.
 
Private Ernest Ratcliffe (no photo of him) and Private John Alexander Ferguson, have been buried there too. This small concentration of graves was between Winnipeg and Cluster Houses. 

Another account of the death of Boscawen was that he did not gone far when he was wounded in the leg and fell. Stretcher-bearers pulled him from the mud and were carrying him back to a dressing station when a shrapnel shell burst overhead, killing all five. 
the nearest dressing station was at Schuler Farm/Schuler Galleries, only 500 m from the place he was buried.
It could be that Boscawen’s  immediate “neighbours” at Tyne Cot were the heroes who died trying to save his life.
 
End of August 1919 they have all been exhumed and brought to Tyne Cot Cemetery where they have been buried next to each other. Tyne Cot Cemetery is about 2.5 km from the place he died.

At the very outset, as we have noted, Captain H. T. Boscawen, commanding Ruahine Company, had been killed, while not long afterwards all the other officers of that company became casualties. Thereupon, Sergeant Ward took command of that company and led it forward with great courage and determination. 
He was shortly afterwards to receive his D.C.M. for his work that day, as also was Sergeant C. E. Menzies, 
Ruahine Company's Lewis Gun Sergeant Menzies had been wounded early in the advance; but stuck to his job. 
After the objectives had been reached, he frequently visited the posts of his guns under heavy machine-gun fire and encouraged his gunners, and himself kept in action one of the guns after its crew had been knocked out.
Burial return sheet (CWGC) with the location where the bodies have been found

map of the place (red spot) where the bodies have been exhumed
During the night of the 4th, rain was intermittent, and the weather bleak and cold. The following day, the captured positions were consolidated, and the rest of the wounded got in, and the dead buried. 

During the day, divisions on both flanks called for artillery assistance, but no counter-attack developed against the New Zealand Division's newly captured positions. Later in the day, orders were received that the three Wellington Battalions were to be relieved by the 5th, 6th and 7th battalions of the West Riding Regiment.

(c) text and pictures: The Belgians Have not Forgotten, Auckland War Memorial, CWGC, Offcial History Wellington Regiment (Victoria University Wellington).

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