1915. First contact with the Western Front.
The Division left for France between July 12th-15th, 1915. The men of the 6th Dorsets boarded the 'St. Cecelia'
and escorted by two destroyers, arrived in Boulogne at 3 a.m. on July 14th. The 50th Brigade marched in sweltering heat to
Pont des Briques then boarded cattle trains that took them to the vincinity of St.Omer. Two further days of marching followed,
the units arrived at Steenvoorde on the Franco-Belgian border where they were inspected by Lt.General Plumer.
The 17th Division's first taste of the trenches was in the Ypres salient. The Division was part of 5 Corps
commanded then by Lt. Gen. Allenby. The other two divisions were the 3rd and the 46th.
The first units to go into the trenches at Sanctuary Wood on July 25th were companies of the 6th Dorsets,
9th Duke of Wellington's and the pioneers of the 7th York and Lancaster. Nine casualties was the result of the first day in
the trenches. The Dorsets lost their first man (Pte. A.J. Banks)
General Pilcher was slightly wounded by a shell splinter the next day whilst touring the trenches at Sanctuary
Wood, so much for the generals in their chatêaux. During the night July 27th-28th, the 51st Bde. sent a detachment of men
from its four battalions to the trenches at the extreme point of the salient at Hooge. 15 casualties were suffered just moving
into the trenches. German shelling intensified on the 30th and was followed up by a night attack on the British positions
around Hooge. The men of the 51st Bde. saw the Germans using liquid fire for the first time, the brunt of the attack falling
on the men of the King's Royal Rifles of the 14th Division.
The next area designated to the Division was the sector held by the 3rd Division, this was a two mile section
of front in the southern part of the salient between the Wytschaete-Vierstraat road and Oosthoek. The line here was not the
shell battered wilderness that we imagine today when we think of the battlefields of the Great War. Farm buildings still remained
and the wire was hidden by rank grass, cornflowers and other wild flowers. (See Peter Barton's excellent book) http://astore.amazon.com/17thnortdivi-20
The line was taken over during the night August 1st-2nd . It was a rainy night and the dugouts and trenches
were flooded. On July 4th, the Division received its first draft of replacements, a total of 687 men. On August 9th, the 17th
Division's artillery took part in the preparatory bombardment of Hooge that was to precede an attack by the 3rd Division.
One 18 pdr. was lost to a direct hit from an eight inch shell.
Division losses for the first month in the trenches were.
officers 7 killed 11 wounded
other ranks 90 killed 420 wounded
total 528 men
September 1915 is a month more famous for the Battle of Loos that began on the 25th some 40 miles south of
the 17th Division.
The battalions continued to hold the line in the St.Eloi sector of the salient. The Dorsets lost six killed
and 43 wounded during this time, the battalion had its first officer killed by a sniper on September 18th.
Plans were made for subsidiary attacks in the salient designed to draw German reserves away when the Loos
offensive began. The Borders and Sherwood Foresters were attached to the 3rd Div. which was due to attack along with the 14th
Div. on September 25th.
The bombardment began all around the salient on the 23rd. The Germans soon replied with heavy calibre guns.
On the 25th the British barrage resumed at 3.30 a.m. and the two divisions attacked Hooge at sunrise, the two 17th Div. battalions
were held in reserve. The remaining battalions were kept busy by making the enemy believe that an attack was imminent on
their lines near St. Eloi. The news filtering back from Hooge indicated that the attack had been successful. A German counter
attack later not only retook the gains made in the morning but they had also taken some of the British trenches. The Borders
and Sherwood Foresters losses were 222. The end of the month saw the Division take over a new sector some 2,500 yards in
length, this added to the trenches already held made a frontage of around 7,000 yards. The new portion of front was just south
of the canal to just beyond where the Ypres- Lille railway passed through the line. The Sherwood Foresters had a mine
blown under them on the 30th which buried an officer and 14 other ranks.
October - November
The 17th remained in the front line until it was relieved by the 24th Division. The trenches were progressively
handed over between the 4th - 7th October and the Division marched off for a well earned rest period that lasted until the
20th. The Division had its hopes raised of a move away from the salient but these hopes were dashed when orders arrived on
the 17th for the relief of the 3rd Division in the salient. The sector was once more around Hooge, with the left
flank on the Menin road and the right a little north of the Ypres - Comines railway. Weather conditions were bad, rain
in the day and frost at night. The trenches became difficult to maintain and the first cases of trench foot were treated
by the R.A.M.C. October and November losses were.
Officers 4 and 9 wounded
Other ranks 49 killed 189 wounded 3 missing
Officers 3 killed 10 wounded
Other ranks 113 338 wounded 3 missing
Those lost to sickness were, Officers 35, Other ranks 750 , total 785.