August 6th 11am
Each year, the Cheshire Regiment Association have commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of St Julien at St George’s Church. This year is the centenary of the Battle and will be the final commemoration.
As such dignitaries from the Cheshire Regiment’s successor, The Mercian Regiment, the Lord Lieutenant of Manchester, the Mayors of Stockport, High Peak, Macclesfield, Bollington, Trafford, Tameside, Cheshire East and Wirral, Deputy Lord Mayor of Manchester, local council leaders together with members of the Cheshire Regiment Association and relatives of those who fought at the Battle will be at St George’s Church for a special service of remembrance and reflection. The service will be conducted by Revd Canon Elaine Chegwin Hall and the preacher will be the Bishop of Stockport, Rt Revd Libby Lane.
The Cheshire’s were part of the reserve Brigade for its Division and were intended to overlap the leading troops once these had captured the initial objectives. The attack, along an 18 kilometre front, had been meticulously planned. An artillery bombardment of the German positions had been underway since 18 July so there was no element of surprise.
By 1am on 31 July, 20 officers and 600 “other ranks” had assembled at a place known as English Farm at Wieltje (to the north east of Ypres). Zero hour had been set for 3.50am and the leading battalions set off for the initial objective – the village of St Julien, approximately a mile away. Later, in the morning the Cheshires left their positions and advanced up the hill towards St Julien. The history of the Battalion records “On arrival at the Boche front line, the casualties had been fairly heavy, but the advance was maintained. The Steenbeck was crossed at 10am and the Battalion was re-organised for the final objective, intermittent fire being maintained whilst this was going on.”
Throughout the morning, there had been a downpour of rain and the ground was quickly turning to deep mud. Despite these conditions, the advance continued at 10.30 and the final objective (described as the Green Line – some 1100 yards north east of St Julien) was taken at 11.05. The Cheshires had reached their objective exactly on schedule. Patrols were then pushed out to Tirpitz Farm, some 300 yards further on.
The position had been secured but at a terrible cost in dead and wounded. There were only 2 officers and 57 Cheshires left, together with 11 Black Watch and 8 Hampshires out of 60 officers and 1800 men. They had come three miles.