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The 9th—The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) in the Great War 1914 - 1918

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The 9th—The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) in the Great War 1914 - 1918
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Author(s): Enos H. G. Roberts
Date Published: 06/2007
Page Count: 144
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-173-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-174-3

Like many large cities, Liverpool raised a number of battalions in the Great War. Notable among them were the Pals, the Liverpool Irish and Scottish, but this book concerns the wartime history of the 9th Battalion – The Kings. Originally formed in 1859 for volunteers from the Liverpool newspaper and print industries, it was, by the outbreak of World War 1, an experienced part of the Territorial Force, but no previous experience could prepare the battalion for war on the Western Front. Once in the line, the exacting toll of modern warfare caused immediate casualties, including the commanding officer invalided home and another quickly killed in action. The King’s endured gruelling life and death in the trenches to the full measure. In the course of the war the battalion fought at Aubers Ridge, Loos, the Somme, Third Ypres, Cambrai and Arras. This moving history of the battalion is essential reading for military students and genealogists since it includes a substantial Decoration Roll.

Every now and then a man was hit. Those killed outright were perhaps spared much agony, and the wounded were lucky if they reached the aid post alive. Many got shell shock which affected men in different ways. One would be struck dumb, another would gibber like a maniac, while a third would retain possession of his reason but lose control of his limbs.
For two days in the sultry heat the Battalion endured the terrible strain of this awful shell fire, the men receiving no proper food and water being unprocurable. Then the Battalion was relieved and taken into support, where three or four days were spent, and on the 10th two companies moved to the Maltz Horn position. The next night the two remaining companies moved up. The devastation in the neighbourhood of Cockrane Alley was worse than at Guillemont. Here the men witnessed the full terrors of the stricken field. Living men dwelt among the unburied dead. Booted feet of killed soldiers protruded from the side of the trench. Here and there a face or a hand was visible. Corpses of dead soldiers with blackening faces covered with flies were rotting in the sun, and the reek of putrefying flesh was nauseating. Added to this the heat was overpowering, the artillery was firing short, and there was little or no water obtainable.
The Battalion was in touch with the French, and there were a few Frenchmen in the trenches with the men. On the 12th August the French attacked with great success and captured the village of Maurepas.
Between the two armies there was a wide broken-in trench running from the Allied towards the German lines. For some time before zero the Allied artillery kept up an incessant barrage on the German lines. The shells fired by the French were noticeable by a much sharper report. At zero the French attacked on the right of Cockrane Alley, advancing at a run in small groups of from eight to twelve men, and they got a good distance without any casualties. Then one by one the Frenchmen commenced to fall, and on reaching the enemy line the French company immediately on the right of the Battalion met with strong resistance. None came back and it is thought that almost every man perished. Meanwhile the two companies of the Battalion attacked in waves on the left of Cockrane Alley. They got eighty or ninety yards without difficulty, when the enemy opened a heavy machine gun fire, and the ground being convex the attackers formed a good target. The Commander of the right company who led his company from the right so as to be in touch with the bombers in Cockrane Alley, though twice wounded, still continued the advance until he was shot dead. His example was emulated by the Company Sergeant Major who perished in similar circumstances. Meanwhile the bombers were endeavouring to work their way down Cockrane Alley. The trench became shallower, and on reaching a road it disappeared. As the bombers emerged on to the road they were shot down one by one. The enemy then turned their machine guns on to Cockrane Alley, and raked it with fire until it became a shambles. Most of the men of the two companies were casualties, and many were killed. A few stragglers who were able to take cover in shell craters managed to return later under cover of darkness.
What became of the wounded lying out between the lines was never known, as any attempt at rescue was impossible. As most of the stretcher bearers with the companies were themselves incapacitated through wounds the rapid evacuation of the wounded even in the trenches was impossible, and moreover the aid post at Headquarters was under heavy artillery fire, so that it was only at great risk to the bearers that the wounded could be cleared at all from the trenches.
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