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Alexander Nimmo Sherriff

Updated: Jan 30, 2022


2nd Lieutenant

‘D’ Company, 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Division

Age: 20

Date of Death: 30.10.14

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 43 & 45

Family history: Son of the late George & of Catherine J Sherriff of Carronvale and Stenhouse, Larbert. He had been educated at Sedbergh School in Yorkshire and then at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and commissioned before the outbreak of the war. His older brother, Lieutenant John George Sherriff, 1/7 Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, age 24, was killed in action on 25 April 1915 and is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial (see his entry).

His other brother Christopher was also commissioned into the Army Service Corps. He survived the war.

(Image of Alexander Nimmo Sherriff IWM HU126439)

Hooge Chateau 31 October 1914

Hooge Chateau, which was located on the Menin Road at the Hamlet of Hooge, was being used as the joint HQ for the British 1st and 2nd Divisions on 31 October 1914. Major-General’s Lomax and Munro, General Officers commanding 1st and 2nd Divisions respectively, where in conference there when at 1.15pm the Germans laid down a heavy barrage registering a direct hit on the Chateau Annex. A number of officers were killed, General Munro was stunned and in a state of shock and General Lomax was seriously wounded, dying in England in 1915. With the commands in chaos at a critical juncture in the First Battle of Ypres, General Haig took command and reorganised the command of both Divisions.

(IWM Q57200)

The image shows the left wing of Hooge Chateau as seen from the road, 31 October 1914. The destruction was caused by the bursting of an 11 inch shell, killing or wounding several staff officers, among whom was Colonel Percival. Baron Vinck, the owner, had left the chateau a few minutes before the shell burst. Some of the staff killed that day are buried at Ypres Town Cemetery and Extension in Plot III, Row AA.

The action leading to his death

The Battalion was heavily engaged in the fighting known as the First Battle of Ypres. It was in the line in the area that became known as Bodmin Copse which lies south of the Menin road and about a mile and a half due west of Gheluvelt. The battalion came under the orders of 7th Division. They were dug in on the southern and eastern edges of Bodmin Copse with 'B' and 'D' Companies in the front line. On the right of 'B' company and entrenched in a strip of open ground with several cottages in front of them, were the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders of 7th Division.

As part of the ‘Bulfin Group’ which comprised three battalions form 2nd Division commanded by Lord Cavan, a battalion from 20th Brigade and two battalions from 2nd Brigade, which all came under the command of Brigadier General Edward S Bulfin commanding 2nd Brigade, 1st Division. On the 30 October, then General Haig, commanding 1st Corps comprising 1st and 2nd Divisions, had given an order that Bulfin and Cavan were to mount a counter attack on the German positions to retake Hollebeke Chateau and Zandvoorde and with French support. Events began to overtake this order and Bulfin and Cavan felt it prudent to cancel the attack.

Bulfin ordered his force to retire in conformity to the Klein Zillebeke - Frezenberg line. The 1st Northamptonshires began their withdrawal in conformity with the others. South of Bodmin Copse, and connected with it by a track, lay the irregularly-shaped wood became known as Shrewsbury Forest. Running from the position the battalion back to Shrewsbury Forest was a sunken lane which offered some kind of cover and shelter for the retiring troops. At first the withdrawal went well however, the Germans began to press the British lines and as the 2/Gordons had retired the Northamptonshires came under heavy enfilade fire and began to suffer heavy causalities. It was at this point that 2nd Lieutenant Sherriff was killed along with 2nd Lieutenant Jarvis and one hundred other ranks. The battalion eventually completed their withdrawal to the cross-roads in Shrewsbury Forest and took up new defensive lines along the front of the forest.

(Linesman map)

Bulfin decided to mount one last attack as a result of the German advance slowing due to a loss of many of their officers being killed. He ordered the two battalions under his immediate command, 1st Northamptonshires and 2nd Royal Sussex, that when they heard cheering from behind them that they were to fire one minute’s rapid fire - the celebrated ‘mad minute’ that British infantry had occasionally practiced - and advance with fixed bayonets. The cheering would be the signal that the reserve battalion, 2nd Gordon Highlanders, numbering some eighty four officers and men including cooks and clerks, had arrived.

The noise of the cheering and firing confused the Germans and the arrival of the 1st Royal Dragoons, acting as infantry, from 6th Cavalry Brigade as well as the 26th Field Company, Royal Engineers, so disorganized the Germans that Bulfin had great difficulty in stopping his men from going too far. Bulfin recounted, ‘No prisoners were taken but hundreds of Germans were lying bayoneted all through the wood (at Klein Zillebeke), or shot by our people.’ About half a mile of ground was retaken.

The War Diary of the 1st Northamptonshires was brief in its description of being in action from 26 October to 15 November:

Medals Awarded

1914 Star with Clasp, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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