HILL 60

Hill 60 in 1914 was merely a low ridge some 150 feet high and about 250 yards from end to end. It was artificially formed when the railway cutting was dug.

The Germans had captured the ridge from the French on 10th December 1914 and soon after the British took over in February 1915 it was decided to recapture the position. The reason of course was that here was some high ground from which, whosoever occupied it had a good view of the surrounding landscape.

The 17th April 1915 was a quiet day of hot and brilliant sunshine. At about 7.0 p.m. the mines dug by 171 Tunnelling Coy. (the same unit that was to dig Spanbroekmoulin Mine), two pairs and a single one were exploded under the hill at 10-second intervals. Immediately, the 1st Bn. Royal West Kent Regt. and sappers from the R.E.’s accompanying them charged forward. Within 3 minutes they had captured the crest, the engineers immediately making the captured ground into defensive positions working upon the great craters formed by the mines’ explosion.

The Germans remaining were few, but those that had not been killed in the attack could be heard calling out "West Kents, West Kents", showing that the enemy had been expecting the attack from this regiment.

However the enemy were not going to allow the British to occupy this important piece of ground and about 10.00 p.m.that night the German artillery commenced to bombard the Hill. At one stage the fire came from 54 different guns. A German counter- attack then commenced. Hand to hand fighting took place with bayonet and bomb. Early in the morning a relief arrived to help. This was a battalion of the K.O.S.B.’s. but at a critical moment the Germans launched yet another counter-attack. Desperate fighting took place. The two largest craters were held but with the result that, in the case of the West Kents, 50% casualties.

In the following days, the Hill was retained by battalion after battalion taking over the defence of the hill and in the course of doing so, 4 Victoria Crosses were won here. (Pte E.Dwyer, Lt Roupell , 2nd Lt Geary and Lt. Woolley).

However, by the lst May 1915 the Germans were desperate to re-take the hill and attempted to do so by means of a gas attack. The British battalion holding the hill on that day was the 1st Bn. Dorsets with 59 Field Coy. R.E. When the fumes of gas cleared away 5 officers and 300 men had become casualties. Another gas attack by the Germans on the 5th May caught the 2nd Bn. Duke of Wellingtons in the trenches. The battalion was overwhelmed and the top of the hill, such as it was, remained in German hands with the British holding the trenches lower down.

On 15th February 1917, a raid was carried out just south of Hill 60 by the 47th London Division. Under heavy mortar fire and the explosion of a small mine, the raiders achieved great success and captured some 118 German prisoners together with machine guns and maps. In the course of the raid mobile charges were placed in dug-outs and with the help of rockets the raiders were able to be directed back to the British lines. An enemy report of the raid was interesting for it said that the few British taken prisoner were found to be so intoxicated that they were unable to be interrogated! The effects of too much rum?

The whole area was once described as a vast cemetery which must be true today, since many British soldiers lie beneath the hill, their names being recorded on the panels of the Menin Gate Memorial.

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