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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - Southdowns in Action

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle



The Eastbourne Gazette on 2nd August 1916, had these two reports of the action at 'Boar's Head'.

Southdowns in Action


Letter from Sergeant Rowsell


Writing from the V.A.D. Hospital, Fernlagul, Larkfield, near Maidstone on July 29th. Lance-Sergeant T.S. Roswell says:-

“As an old Eastbourian I have been a reader of your valuable paper for some years and I received it weekly in the trenches before I was wounded. I belong to one of the Southdowns Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment and am able to tell you that our long training in England enabled the men to become not only good fighters but good workers as well. If any trenches needed making or repairing by our division one of the ‘Southdowns’ Battalions was sure to get the job. With regard to the fighting, all were eager to go over the parapet to meet ‘Frtiz’ when the time came and the ‘Squareheads’ the other side of No Mans land soon learnt what they were up against. You were quite correct in your surmise that some day Sussex people will hear the...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The Wounded Officers Letter – “The Men Were Magnificent”

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This is another report in the Eastbourne Gazette on 19th July 1916. No name is given by the wounded officer, but his letter confirms the other reports without overemphasising the carnage of the attack.

The Wounded Officers Letter – “The Men Were Magnificent”

No warmer tribute to the splendid work of “Lowther’s Lambs” in the recent operation on the Western Front could be given than contained in a private letter by a wounded officer, who says:-

“The men were magnificent; there is no doubt about that. If the men in the rest of Kitchener’s Army are anything like the ‘Southdowns’ nothing will stop us now that we have made the right start.

Our divisional General said only a few days before the beginning of this great push, “You men (meaning the Southdowns) do not require leading, we know their reputation.” And he was right. When their officers and men fell on the survivors went, right through the hell of fire. ‘My Company (‘A’...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - How The South Downs Fought - Eastbourne Hero

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

Reports continued to filter into the newspaper about the fighting on 30th June 1916. The Eastbourne Gazette on 26th July 1916 contained these reports.

The first is from a letter by Lieutenant Robinson where he writes about the heroism of CSM Nelson Carter who would later be posthumously awarded the V.C. for his actions during the battle.


"How the Southdowns Fought


Eastbourne Hero


Loses his life while rescuing comrades


In a private letter to a friend an Eastbourne officer, Lieutenant Harold C.T. Robinson, who is at home wounded, tells of the gallantry of a local soldier who lost his life in the great advance on the morning of June 30, while rescuing comrades who had fallen wounded over the parapet.

Lieutenant Robinson, who is the younger son of Mr. C. Wyndham Robinson, of Kya Lami, The Greys, Eastbourne, was the officer commanding A Company, 12th Royal Sussex Regiment and the soldier of whose heroism he speaks was Company-Sergeant Major N.V. Carter (formerly an attendant at Old Town, Cinema)...

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Military: The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The South Downs Battalion

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On 30th June 1916 the Southdowns Battalions took a major part in their first battle. It was a diversionary operation at the village of Richebourg L’Avoue in northern France. A set piece battle had been planned to straighten out the line of a German position known as Boar’s Head.

The first reports started to trickle back in early July 1916 together with the start of the Battle of the Somme which was further south. The casualties from the the Somme were enormous, in fact the 1st July 1916 was the worst day in the history of the British Army; 60,000 casualties either, dead, wounded or missing.

The Battle of 'Boar's Head' has today been largerly forgotten about, in fact many books about that time do not even mention it. The cost to the three South Downs Battalions and to the people of Sussex was terrible. The total causalities were 15 Officers and 364 other ranks killed or died of wounds and 21 Officers and 728 other ranks wounded. In total nearly 1,100. A conservative count of men killed coming from...

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Military: Private John Carroll, V.C.

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Private John Carroll, 33rd Battalion, Victoria Cross action at St Yves (battle of Messines).

Jack Carroll was born in Brisbane but grew up in Western Australia and worked around Kalgoorlie and nearby Karrawang. In 1916 he joined the AIF's 44th Battalion, but soon transferred to the 33rd. Messines was the battalion's first big action.

Over the period of 7-10 June, during the battle at St Yves (near Messines), Carroll was outstanding: he rushed an enemy trench and killed four Germans; assisted a soldier in distress and killed another German; attacked a machine-gun team, killing three men and capturing the gun; then extracted comrades buried in a shell hole while under heavy fire. His citation declared: "his magnificent example of gallantry and devotion to duty inspired all ranks in his battalion".

Carroll was a casual and happy-go-lucky man, known by his mates as "the wild Irishman". He was wounded a month later and again, severely this time, on 12 October 1917. Returned to Australia, he resumed work as a labourer and railwayman. In 1927 he...

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Military: Private John Carroll, V.C.

Written by RSS Poster Out of battle

Private John Carroll, 33rd Battalion, Victoria Cross action at St Yves (battle of Messines).

Jack Carroll was born in Brisbane but grew up in Western Australia and worked around Kalgoorlie and nearby Karrawang. In 1916 he joined the AIF's 44th Battalion, but soon transferred to the 33rd. Messines was the battalion's first big action.

Over the period of 7-10 June, during the battle at St Yves (near Messines), Carroll was outstanding: he rushed an enemy trench and killed four Germans; assisted a soldier in distress and killed another German; attacked a machine-gun team, killing three men and capturing the gun; then extracted comrades buried in a shell hole while under heavy fire. His citation declared: "his magnificent example of gallantry and devotion to duty inspired all ranks in his battalion".

Carroll was a casual and happy-go-lucky man, known by his mates as "the wild Irishman". He was wounded a month later and again, severely this time, on 12 October 1917. Returned to Australia, he resumed work as a labourer and railwayman. In 1927 he...

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Military: Lieutenant Rupert Moon, V.C.

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Lieutenant Rupert Vance 'Mick' Moon, 58th Battalion, Victoria Cross action at Bullecourt.

Rupert "Mick" Moon was born at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and grew up in Gippsland. He had been in the militia, and in 1914 enlisted in the light horse. He was sent to Gallipoli, then in September 1916 was commissioned and transferred to the 58th Australian Infantry Battalion to replace recent losses.

At Bullecourt on the 12 May 1917, Moon led an attack on an enemy strongpoint but was soon wounded. Not giving up, and continually calling, "come on boys", he was badly wounded twice more but still stayed to lead, inspire, and encourage his men. "We would have followed him anywhere, he was that game", said one. Only when he was wounded for a fourth time, severely now, did he finally agree to retire and seek medical help.

Moon returned to Australia but went back to Europe and ended the war as a temporary captain. Afterwards he worked in a bank and as an accountant. He was eventually one of the last surviving Australian Victoria Cross–holders of the war.


Military: Sergeant Claud Charles Castleton, V.C.

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Sergeant Claud Charles Castleton, 5th Machine Gun Company, Victoria Cross action at PozièresFrance.

Born in England, Claud Castleton (1893-1916) arrived in Melbourne in 1912 seeking travel and adventure. For three years he toured Tasmania, the eastern states, and Papua. He was in Port Moresby when the First World War began, but in March 1915 returned to Sydney to enlist. He served on Gallipoli with the 18th Battalion and in March 1916 transferred to the 5th Machine Gun Company.

Castleton was killed at Pozières on 29 July 1916 during an action for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. During a night attack on enemy trenches, the infantry was driven back and then held down by intense enemy machine-gun fire. Many wounded men were left lying in no man's land, and on two occasions Castleton went out in the face of enemy fire to bring in wounded men on his back. When he went out a third time, he was himself hit in the back and instantly killed. His body was later recovered and is buried in the main British war...

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Military: Sergeant William Ruthven, V.C.

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Sergeant William Ruthven, 22nd Battalion, Victoria Cross action at Ville-sur-AncreFrance.

William "Rusty" Ruthven was born at Collingwood, Melbourne, and was a mechanic in the timber industry before enlisting in April 1915. After serving on Gallipoli he went to France, where he was wounded in April 1916.

During an attack near Ville-sur-Ancre on 19 May 1918, Ruthven performed outstanding acts of bravery. He took command of a company after the officer commanding was wounded, and personally assaulted enemy strongpoints. Throughout the successful action, he led by example, inspiring and encouraging his men. During the mopping-up and consolidation, he captured 32 Germans.

Ruthven was commissioned in July 1918 and discharged in December. He became a soldier-settler for a while, but returned to Collingwood and became a local councillor. During the Second World War he served in garrison battalions, reaching the rank of major. From 1945 to 1961 he was a member of the Victorian parliament.

Ruthven received the Victoria Cross, service medals for the First and Second World Wars and coronation medals for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.


Military: 2nd Lieutenant Harry Murray, V.C.

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2nd Lieutenant Harry Murray of the 13th Battalion, AIF at Cheshire Ridge - Gallipoli, November, 1915.

Harry Murray was born at LauncestonTasmania, on 1 December 1880. As a youth he helped run the family farm. He was also interested in the military and joined a militia unit, the Australian Field Artillery, in Launceston.

Murray moved to Western Australia at the age of 19 or 20 where he worked as a mail courier on the goldfields. When he enlisted in the AIF as a private on 30 September 1914, he was employing timber-cutters for the railways in the south west of Western Australia. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 as a member of one of the 16th Battalion's two machine-gun crews. Murray was wounded several times, spent June in hospital, was promoted to lance corporal on 13 May and won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery between 9-31 May. He was wounded again on 8 July and a month later experienced a remarkable series of promotions. On 13 August he was made a sergeant, commissioned second-lieutenant and transferred to...

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Latest Out Of Battle Stories

The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - Southdowns in Action
The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The Wounded Officers Letter – “The Men Were Magnificent”
The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - How The South Downs Fought - Eastbourne Hero
The Boar's Head - 30th June 1916 - The South Downs Battalion
Private John Carroll, V.C.

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