This Day In History

1918 Battle of the Selle. In a carefully-planned attack, rehearsed over 5 days, 5th East Lancashires mount a remarkably successful night assault near Briastre. They move off at 2 a.m., in a heavy downpour which lasted throughout the engagement, to the sound of the Regimental March being played by the battalion band. Met by heavy machine-gun fire and an artillery barrage which causes 50 casualties, they charge through with a yell and are on their final objective well before the 7 a.m. deadline set, taking 300 prisoners in the process. Casualties are 2 officers and 13 men dead, and 6 officers and 109 men wounded. Some 22 German dead were counted on the battalion front. Study of the ground the next day shows that the battalion had gone through no fewer than 6 defensive belts, including a very strongly-held railway embankment, before reaching its final objective. The 300 prisoners were ‘of far better physique and appearance’ than any of the enemy previously encountered, and turn out to be picked troops. They said that they were members of Kaiser Wilhelm’ bodyguard; that they had never before known defeat; and that they had been sent to hold the line at all costs.
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Lieutenant Richard Basil Brandram Jones VC

Richard Basil Brandram Jones VC

Richard Basil Brandram Jones VC

Richard Jones was born in Honor Oak, Lewisham, South East London,  on 30 April 1897 and educated at Dulwich College.

When the First World War broke out he was 17 years and 4 months old. He immediately volunteered for active service and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th (Service) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in October 1914. Two months later he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant. He went with the battalion to France in September 1915 and was appointed Sniping Officer.

In May 1916, 21 days after his 19th birthday, his battalion was in the line at Broadmarsh Crater, on Vimy Ridge, France, and with his platoon he was holding a crater recently captured from the enemy. What happened next is best described in the words of the citation to his posthumous Victoria Cross:

“About 7.30 P.M. the enemy exploded a mine forty yards to his right, and at the same time put a heavy barrage of fire on our trenches, thus isolating the Platoon. They then attacked in overwhelming numbers. Lt. Jones kept his men together, steadying them by his fine example, and shot no less than fifteen of the enemy as they advanced, counting them aloud as he did so to cheer his men. When his ammunition was expended he took a bomb, but was shot through the head while getting up to throw it. His splendid courage had so encouraged his men that when they had no more ammunition or bombs they threw stones and ammunition boxes at the enemy till only nine of the platoon were left. Finally they were compelled to retire.”

Richard Jones’s body was never recovered. He is one of the 35,000 British Commonwealth servicemen  commemorated on the Arras Memorial who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, and have no known grave.

His Victoria Cross is preserved in Dulwich College, London.