L/Cpl. Charles Richards (10324) - Awarded the D.C.M.

On the 26th July 1917 the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment moved forward from their billets in Ypres to dugouts at "Halfway House." Thence on the next evening the Battalion moved up along the Menin Road to the line, and took over the trenches immediately south of the Road at Hooge.

The British artillery had steadily increased their fire during the weeks preceding the attack, and in face of that fire the German front-line trenches had been almost evacuated. Patrols sent out by the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment on the next two nights reported very few of the enemy in the trenches in, front.

During the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment attack on the 31st July 1917, Lance-Corporal Charles Richards was the leader of a two Lewis-gunners with Private Sydney Fudger. During the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment advance it was held up by a German light machine-gun firing from a shell-hole. Lance Corporal Charles Richards and Private Sydney Fudger brought their Lewis Gun into action and engaged the enemy machine gun. Lance-Corporal Charles Richard shot down the German gun-team with his revolver and captured the machine-gun. Both Lance-Corporal Charles Richard and Private S. Fudger were awarded the D.C.M. for their brave action.

Lance-Corporal Charles Richard citation read:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun. He and another man took forward their Lewis guns and attacked an enemy machine gun. which was holding up their platoon. Finding that they had not put the gun out of action, they again went forward with the greatest courage, and Lance-Corporal Richards himself accounted for the gun team with his revolver, and captured the gun, which they brought back with them. They then proceeded with their Lewis gun, and rendered valuable assistance on the flank, which was held up by hostile machine-gun fire.”
(London Gazette 22nd October 1917)

Lance-Corporal Charles Richards D.C.M.
(photo submitted by Valerie Evans - his great niece)

Below is a detailed account of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiments actions on the 31st July 1917 as it advanced towards the village of Westhoek. Maps also show their progress during the advance.


(This is the official title for the whole series of battles from July 31st till November 10th.
The first phase — July 31st to August 2nd is officially termed the "Battle of Pilckem Ridge")

During the night of 30th/31st July 1917, the whole Ypres Salient was crowded with troops filing forward into their assembly positions. The companies of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment got out of their trenches and formed up behind them in attack formation. The 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment came up from support and took over the left hand sector of the Brigade front, astride the Menin Road. The attack was to be made north-eastward, slantwise across the Road towards Westhoek. Behind them, the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment marched forward that night from their camp beyond Reninghelst (near Hoograaf Cabaret - The 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment had moved to that bivouac from " Halifax Camp " on December 24th.) to bivouac in reserve near Belgian Chateau, west of Ypres.

Front line trenches in Sanctuary Wood
from which the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment attacked on the 31st July 1917

During the night of the 30th/31st July 1917, the British guns redoubled their fire, and as the first light of dawn broke the sky (3.50 a.m.) the gun-fire rose to intensity and along the whole front of the Salient the British infantry went over the top."The great attack had begun."

Following close behind the creeping barrage, "C" and "D" Companies of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment swept forward over the enemy's front and support lines. Little opposition was met. The organisation of the attack had been careful, and "mopping up" parties dealt with the enemy dugouts in quick succession. The existence of a tunnel under the road, behind the enemy's lines, had long been known, and it had been anticipated that it would give much trouble; but in the event it was captured easily enough, and forty cowering prisoners were extracted.

The ground over which the platoons advanced was a wilderness of shell-holes, and intermittent rain during the previous days had begun to soak the soil. At the German support trench ("Ignorance Support") the two leading companies called a halt and started to dig in, while "A" and "B" Companies, hitherto in second line, passed through, advanced through the tree stumps of Chateau Wood and captured "James Trench". Then came the first definite opposition, a hail of machine-gun fire, and a heavy barrage of shells from the enemy guns. Fortunately the German shells fell upon Chateau Wood, behind the advancing companies; but the machine-guns were a serious problem. The objective of the two companies was a small spur which projects southward from the Bellewaerde Ridge. On the spur were several concrete block-houses. Several had been smashed by our shells, but one was still intact. From that cover the enemy used a machine-gun with great effect, and the advance was checked.

Lieutenant E. C. Barton led forward a small party, Sergeant W. Moore and nine men. Working their way from shell-hole to shell-hole they advanced some five hundred yards under heavy fire, closed in on the block-house and rushed it, killing or capturing all its garrison ( Lieut. Barton was awarded the M.C. Sergt Moore was awarded the D.C.M.) .

Further along the line the advance was held up by a light machine-gun firing from a shell-hole. Two Lewis-gunners, Lance-Corporal Charles Richards and Private Sydney Fudger, brought their weapon into action. The German machine-gun ceased fire, but reopened as soon as the advance was resumed. The two Lewis-gunners promptly attacked. The Lance-Corporal shot down the German gun-team with his revolver and captured the machine-gun ( L/Cpl. Richards and Pte. Fudger were awarded the D.C.M.).

Those brave deeds enabled the advance to continue. The attacking platoons breasted the slope, crossed the sky line, and dug in on their objective, the forward crest of the spur, facing the Westhoek Ridge.

Details of the attack on the 31st July 1917

On the left the 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment had stormed the ruins of Hooge and Bellewaerde Farm and had gained the highest ground of the Bellewaerde Ridge. The first phase of the attack had been triumphantly accomplished (Further to the left the attack of the 23rd Brigade had been equally successful. That Brigade was commanded with conspicuous gallantry by Colonel Grogan, the former Commanding Officer of the 1st Worcestershire. His Brigade-Major, Captain F. C. Roberts of the Regiment, was awarded the M.C. for daring personal reconnaissances made during the day under heavy fire. During that same day, Major H, St. J. Jefferies of the Regiment, commanding another battalion of the 8th Division, the 1st W. Yorks, also gained the D.S.O.).

Tree stumps of Chateau Wood

Then, according to the plan, the two supporting battalions of the 24th Brigade were to come through and take the next objective. Tanks were to assist in that second phase, and soon the tanks were seen approaching, lumbering forward over the captured trenches; but the boggy ground rendered their movements slow and clumsy, most of them were "ditched" or broke down, and the only one which came past the Battalion was hit and destroyed by shell-fire.

The enemy's gun-fire increased. Under a rain of bursting shells the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment advanced through the lines of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and pressed on to attack Westhoek. The fire was too fierce to permit of final success, and presently the East Lancashire Regiment, after losing heavily, were forced to halt and dig in short of their objective.

The reserve of the 8th Division, the 25th Brigade, came up in their turn. The 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment passed forward through the lines of the Worcestershire, but the enemy's resistance had stiffened, and the Lincolns suffered severely during their advance from machine-guns in Glencorse Wood. Eventually the Lincolns and East Lancashire consolidated a line which ran in a shallow semi-circle facing Westhoek.

On the right flank the position was exceedingly dangerous. The 30th Division had not succeeded in advancing beyond "Stirling Castle" and from the high ground about "Glencorse Wood," several machine-guns were firing. Those machine-guns could take the 8th Division front in enfilade, and counter-attacks were also threatened. To protect the right flank Colonel Davidge led forward two companies of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He formed them as a defensive flank facing Inverness Copse, with the object of linking the line of the 8th Division with that of the 30th Division at Stirling Castle (For his brilliant leadership on that occasion Colonel Davidge was awarded the D.S.O. His Adjutant, 2/Lt. W. C. Stevens, was awarded the M.C.).

Intense gun-fire continued throughout the day. The morning had been dull and cloudy. Towards the evening heavy rain came on and continued into the night, obscuring the view and soaking both the troops and the ground beneath them. Casualties were counted—well over 200, including 9 officers (Killed 4 officers [Capt. F. J. O'Brien, 2/Lt. E. S. Collins, 2/Lt. H. C. Stephens, 2/Lt. R. A. Budden] and 22 other ranks. Wounded 5 officers [Lt. E. C. Barton, 2/Lts. R. A. Hart, G. N. Perham, G. B. Harrison and T. Comoys] and 167 other ranks. Missing 49). The Battalion had captured 70 prisoners as well as a machine-gun.

That night and the following day were miserable. Under pouring rain the officers and men of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment held firm on the ground they had won, digging in as best they could, while the enemy's fire swept the ridge. Late in the day word came of relief, and presently the relieving Battalion came splashing their way up through the mud; and proved to be none other than the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment. The relief took some time, but eventually the 1st Battalion got clear and marched back down the Merlin Road, while the 3rd Battalion settled down to take their places.

Detailed locations of German trenches (Ignorance Trench & James Trench)