War Diaries Talk

The disappearance of 'C' squadron, 1st Life Guards, at Zandvoorde trenches, October 30th 1914.

  • brecon_beacons by brecon_beacons

    I have just come across a summary of this event, on The Great War Forum. My eye was drawn because the Captain in charge of 'C' squadron (and also lost) was the Duke of Westminster's son, Lord Grosvenor. (the current Duke, Gerald Grosvenor, is usually named as 'the richest man in Britain').

    I quote the summary (there is also a portrait, here: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=133675)

    *Lord Hugh Grosvenor was a Captain in charge of a Squadron of the 1st Life Guards and was killed on the 30th October 1914 on the forward slopes of the Zandvoorde Ridge. The German attack took the form of a storm of shrapnel and high explosives and by 9am the Household Cavalry trenches had been literally blown to pieces. The Brigade was forced to retire slowly down the hill keeping up a good covering fire as it went.

    According to the account in Lord Ernest Hamilton's book the First Seven Divisions published in 1916 Lord Grosvenor's Squadron, 1st Life Guards along with C Squadron 2nd Life Guards and Lord Worsley's Machine Gun section of the Blues, did not succeed in withdrawing. The order to retire may not have reached them - those who had survived the bombardment awaited the German infantry attack and fought it out to an absolute finish.

    An Officer in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers trenches on the left of the Zandvoorde trenches, subsequently described the Household Cavalry's defence of the Zandvoorde position as one of the finest feats of the war.

    Gerald Gliddon in his book The Aristocracy and The Great War has this to say regarding the Household Cavalry's defence of the Zandvoode Trenches - 'owing to the extremely exposed position they simply disappeared without trace or even a trail of prisoners of war. As a consequence the 4 Squadrons of the 1st Life Guards were reduced to two.' *

    This account makes it sound like an heroic encounter that was simply tragic in it's ending.

    However, in the Diary pages I have tagged, an earlier entry- Image AWD00003xg - records that there were not enough men in reserve to relieve 'C' squadron in the trenches on the 26th October, so they had to stay there 'for another 24 hours' - which takes them into the 27th or possibly the 28th.

    They were back in the trenches on October 30th when they met their nemesis - but they must have been desperately tired and low on strength, compared to 'A' and 'B' squadrons, who were properly relieved, returned to billets and got some respite.

    So was it just 'bad luck' that 'C' squadron were wiped out? Or did the chaos in lack of relief in the trenches play its part?

    I would be interested in the comments of others.