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TOWER HAMLETS

This photograph is taken from the German Front Line of September 1917 looking towards Shrewsbury Forest.

On the 20th September 1917 the British Army went on the offensive once again. Overall the attacks were successful although here in the "Tower Hamlets" sector there was no breakthrough and the capture, amongst some of the objectives, of the nearby village of Gheluvelt was not achieved. The 11th Royal Sussex took over part of the line occupying trenches in the line of trees in the middle of the picture on 23rd September and amongst a number of distressing experiences suffered by the battalion here was the death of the Battalion Medical Officer, Captain Gatchell.

There were two pill boxes forming battalion HQ one of which was used by the Adjutant, his clerks, runners and the doctor. Some 30 yards away Blunden occupied the second pill box with his signallers and other men. The battalion was subjected to tremendous shelling "guns of all calibres pouring their fury into our small area." A message came through that the doctor’s post had been hit and Blunden’s orderly- PrivateW.E.Shearing (later to win the M.M.) was sent over to investigate. He "hurried back, wild eyed straining: Don’t go over, sir, it’s awful. A shell came into the door." The Medical Officer, Captain J.H.C.Gatchell M.C., Royal Army Medical Corps was killed as were all those with him including the wounded.

As the battalion finished its tour of duty in the front line it moved back to the rear positions behind Shrewsbury Forest. Here Blunden had the task of writing up the Battalion War Diary. He wrote "Estimated casualties of the last tour 10 Officers and 195 Other Ranks.

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