Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, June 13, 2013

At the Ypres Salient:
What Happened at Mousetrap Farm?


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All the major battlefields of the Western Front were the sites of multiple actions during the war, and of battles-within-battles. Nowhere is this more true than in the Ypres Salient.

About 2.5 miles northeast of the Menin Gate lies what in 1915 was a moated farm with some outbuildings. Its ruins at the time can be seen in the insert on the photo above. It was first given the name "Shell Trap Farm" by the British. The unhappy associations of this designation were held to be detrimental to the garrison's morale, and the position was subsequently renamed by the staff as "Mouse Trap Farm." On the morning of 24 May 1915 what was left of the farm after earlier bombardments ("a mere heap of mud and rubbish") was defended by the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. (In the previous month's fighting Mouse Trap Farm had provided a location for the 3rd Canadian Brigade's headquarters, which was shelled and burned down on the afternoon of 25 April 1915.)

At 2:45 a.m. on 24 May, the Germans launched an attack on the Allied lines that involved the greatest use of chlorine gas to date, this time delivered with shells. The German gas came "drifting down wind in a solid bank some three miles in length and forty feet in depth, bleaching the grass, blighting the trees and leaving a broad scar of destruction behind it." Being a mere 30 yards from the enemy trenches the rapid occupation of the farm by the quick-moving German infantry was little short of inevitable. By 9:30 p.m., out of a battalion strength of 666 men, all that remained when the battalion "retired" was one officer and twenty other ranks.

In just eighteen and three quarter hours, the Dublin Fusiliers had suffered a loss of 645 men who were blown to bits, gassed, or driven insane by the effects of poisonous gas. The 2nd Dublin's commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Loveband, died the following day. The battalion did not take part in any more major battles for the rest of the year. Engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial are the names of 461 Royal Dublin Fusiliers killed during the Battles of Ypres. Of those names 143 belong to Dublin Fusiliers belonging to the 2nd Battalion who died on the 24th of May 1915.

Sources: CWGC and Royal Dublin Fusilier Websites

11 comments:

  1. Our family member Private George Amos aged 21yrs who served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was one of those killed at Mouse Trap Farm on 24th May 1915. His name is recorded on the Menin Gate, thankyou to those who posted these photographs and recorded the events on this site..

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  2. This is an account from my Grandfathers brother. http://www.freewebs.com/josephburke/eyewitnesreport.htm

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  3. Private William Fitzgerald, 2nd Bn. Royal Dublin Fusiliers died on 24th May 1915 at Mouse Trap Farm, age 27. My great uncle. Lest we forget.

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  4. My great uncle, CSM Martin Coombes aged 34 who served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was one of those reported missing at Mouse Trap Farm on 24th May 1915. His name is immortalised on the Menin Gate. We will remember them.

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  5. The Grandfather I never knew Patrick Dolan, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment died at 8 May 1915 Shell Trap Farm His name is on the Menin Gate where he will be remembered forever RIP

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    2. He must have known Michael Collins, one of the 4 Waterford brothers that died in WW 1. Michael was in the same battalion and died on the same day at Mouse Trap Farm, Wieltje, Ieper. An article in the Irish Times by Rachel Collins incorrectly says that Michael died at Aubers Ridge in Flanders.

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  6. My paternal grandfather, William Henry Speake, was wounded on 8th May 1915 at Shell Trap Farm. He was a Private in the 5th South Lancashire Regiment. He suffered a gun shot wound to the back, and was sent to Rouen to recover. He rejoined his battalion on 6th June 1915. On 21st August of the same year, he suffered a shrapnel wound to the neck, but was treated in the field. He returned home after the war, married my grandmother and had four children (the youngest being my father), and he eventually moved to America. He lived to the age of 85.

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  7. My uncle, Private Patrick O'Reilly, of the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers was killed in action in the battle of Mousetrap farm in May 1915 aged 21 years. It has taken a long time to compile the information, my thanks to the RDFA Dublin and CWGC for their assistance. Isabella

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  8. My Grandfather Thomas Dillon enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1900 and served for 8 years in South Africa and India. At the outbreak of war he was he a reservist and he joined the 2rd battalion in September 1914. A year later he was deeemed unfit for further active duty after the attack at Mouse Trap Farm.

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  9. My Great Uncle L/col Patrick Bolger Kia During the 2nd Battle of Ypres at Mouse trap farm May 1915,what little information I have is from the British war office,however I'd love to obtain some photographs of the battalion which was the 2nd REF,would anyone know where these Jay be obtained if at all?

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