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Peter McCann


10129 Private

‘X’ Company,1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division

Age: 42

Date of Death: 16.6.15

Buried: Menin Gate Memorial Panel 8 to 12

Family history: Husband of Mrs Harriet Charlette Dawson. Harriet remarried and changed her name to Dawson. Son of James McCann, Mathieson's Buidlings.

The action leading to his death

At the end of the second Battle of Ypres, the German trenches between the Menin Road and the Ypres-Roulers Railway formed a salient. Positioned on Bellewaarde Ridge the Germans overlooked the greater part of the ground east of Ypres. In early June a plan was out in place to take back the Ridge with the attack being carried out by 9th Brigade, 3rd Division with 7th Brigade in support. The troops of the 3rd Division were on the western edge of Railway Wood at Cambridge Road and shrouded in thick mist which reduced visibility and also gave the illusion of safety.

(Map above from 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers War Diary. showing trenches at Bellewaarde Ridge)

(Map showing positions before the attack)

At 2.50am the British bombardment began and went onto 4.15am the time laid down for the attack to commence. Given the proximity of the two front line systems the British fire caused a number of casualties amongst the attacking troops before they advanced. The attack was launched and the first and second line trenches were quickly taken and also part of the third line along with 300 prisoners on a front of 1,000 yards. With the German front line secured the plan was for the Liverpool Scottish on the left, the Lincolns in the centre and the Wiltshire’s on the right were to go through and capture the second line from Y17 to Y11. The flanks during this phase were to be secured by the 7th Brigade at Y20 and by the Northumberland Fusiliers who were to bomb their way along trenches Y7 and Y8.

(Image above shows the Liverpool Scottish at Bellewaarde Ridge on 16 June 1915. The flag is an artillery marker to let the British artillery know the positions of troops in the advance)

(View today from old German positions at trench Y6. Road is the old Ypres to Roulers Railway. Railway Wood in the distance)

The Northumberland Fusiliers were now short of officers and men and ‘X’ Company at Y14 the situation was desperate with a large amount of the men killed and the survivors appointing leaders amongst themselves as the NCO’s had all been killed. They wer completely pinned down by the enemy fire and all they could do was to hold onto their positions and wait for support. With the Battalion positions now exposed on both flanks, due to what remained of the other Battalions retiring, the order was given to fall back under heavy fire to the first line of German trenches captured that morning. The Battalion was relieved after dark by the Royal Scots.

The Northumberland Fusiliers casualties were 15 Officers and 386 Other Ranks, they had started the day with 15 Officers and 645 Other Ranks. Peter is listed as wounded/missing on one of the eighteen pages of Other Rank casualties in the 16 June entry in the War Diary.

(1st Battalion Northumberland fusiliers War Diary entry listing casualties. Petr McCann highlighted)

In his diary Billy Congreve records the 3rd Divisions casualties as 25 officers killed, 109 wounded and 9 missing. Other ranks, 341 killed, 1,907 wounded, and 1,169 missing a total 3,560 in a battlefield half a mile square. The British objectives of removing the Germans were not completely achieved but they had taken some important ground.

Medals Awarded

1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

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