THE WESTERN FRONT FRANCE & FLANDERS 1914-1915.
All four battalions of the Connaught Rangers served in France and Flanders during the course of the War. On August 14, 1914 the 2nd battalion arrived at the port of Boulogne in France, to cheering French crowds, as part of the original British Expeditionary Force (BEF). During the opening phase of the War they took part in the:
- The retreat from Mons. August 1914.
- Battle of Coup De Soupir Farm. September 1914.
- Battle of the Aisne. September 1914.
- First Battle of Ypres. October – November 1914.
On December 2nd 1914, due to mounting casualties, the 2nd battalion was disbanded and amalgamated with 1st battalion Connaught Rangers at Le Touret in France. On September 26, 1914 the 1st battalion of the Connaught Rangers arrived at the Port of Marseilles having left the port of Karachi on the Indian subcontinent a month before.
Throughout 1914 & 1915 they took part in:
- The First Battle of Messines. October 1914.
- The Battle of Festubert. November 1914.
- Battle of Neuve Chapelle. March 1915.
- Second Battle of Ypres. April 1915.
- Battle of Loos. September 1915.
On December 11, 1915 the 1st Battalion returned to Marseilles and left for Mesopotamia (Iraq).
THE WESTERN FRONT FRANCE & FLANDERS 1916-1918.
On December 18, 1915 the 6th (Service) battalion Connaught Rangers arrived at the Port of Le Harve in France. This battalion served in France & Flanders all through 1916, 1917 and into early 1918. They took part in:
- The Battles of Guillemont and Ginchy on the Somme. September 1916.
- Battle of Messines. June 1917.
- Third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) August 1917.
On March 21st 1918 the 6th battalion Connaught Rangers was caught in the middle of the great German offensive and suffered such heavy casualties that the battalion could no longer be sustained and was disbanded in April 1918. On June 1, 1918 the 5th (Service) battalion Connaught Rangers arrived at the Port of Marseilles from Egypt. After a period of segregation to prevent the spread of malaria they took part in the final Allied offensive in which the tide of the War was turned in the favour of the Allies with the participation of the army of the United States.
The 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers took part in two major actions France in October 1918.
At the Armistice on November 11th 1918 they were the only battalion of the Connaught Rangers on the Western Front.
GALLIPOLI – THE ATTEMPT TO INVADE TURKEY.
On April 25, 1915, Allied troops – Anzac (Australian and New Zealand), British and French landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to Take Istanbul and put Turkey, a strong ally of Germany, out of the War. Turkish resistance to the invasion proved formidable and Allied troops failed to take the high ground. The Gallipoli campaign turned into a disaster and in August 1915 a second offensive began in an attempt to break the stalemate and get the Allied troops of the beaches and move inland. Fresh, mainly newly recruited soldiers were drafted from Britain including the 5th battalion Connaught Rangers. The 5th Connaught Rangers landed at Anzac Cove on the Peninsula in the early hours of August 6, 1915. For the next seven weeks the Ranges fought desperately in the heat and misery of the Gallipoli Peninsula and took part in actions at
- Lone Pine.
- Sari Bair.
- Hill 60 & Kabak Kuyu.
Two all out attacks on the Turkish strong points on Hill 60 on August 21 and 28, resulted in very heavy casualties for the battalion. On September 29, 1915 the 5th Connaught Rangers were withdrawn to the Island of Lemnos in Greece. During the Gallipoli campaign the 5th Connaught Rangers suffered over 70% casualties with 22% fatalities. 686 officers and men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. 220 officers and men were listed as killed or missing in action. The Gallipoli campaign had ended in utter failure and the Peninsula was evacuated in late December 1915.
THE SALONIKA FRONT- THE BALKAN CAMPAIGN.
In early October 1915 an Expeditionary Force of Allied troops French and British was sent to Northern Greece in an attempt to assist the country of Serbia. On October 6th 1915 a combined German and Austrian army had launched a full-scale invasion of Serbia from the North. On October 8, 1915 a Bulgarian army assisted the invasion by attacking Serbia from the East. King Ferdinand of Bulgaria had opted to join the War on the side of the Central powers. The Serbian Army were no match for the combined invasion force and were soon in full retreat. Greece still officially a neutral country allowed the Allies to use Salonika as a base from which to prepare their operations to cross into Serbia. The 5th battalion Connaught Rangers reinforced after their disastrous Gallipoli campaign arrived at Salonika from the island of Mudros on October 10, 1915. After a month’s training in atrocious weather conditions the Rangers crossed the Greek frontier into the snow covered mountainous region of Southern Serbia. On December 7, 1915 a huge army of Bulgarian troops overran the frozen trenches occupied by the 10th Irish Division near the village of Kosturino. The main thrust of the attack fell upon the part of the line being held by the 5th Connaught Rangers. In the fierce battle, which followed, the Rangers sustained massive losses and were forced to retreat into Greece. 138 Officers and men of the Connaught Rangers were killed in action at Kosturino. A further 130 were taken prisoner.
The 5th battalion Connaught Rangers remained at the Salonika Front for a further 2 years with little progress made by either side. The Allied presence in northern Greece prevented the Bulgarian army invading Greece but the inhospitable mountainous terrain and adverse weather, unbearable heat and malaria in summer and ice and snow in winter, made an offensive almost impossible. It also meant huge numbers of Allied troops being tied up in a ‘sideshow’. On September 10, 1917 the 5th Connaught Rangers were transferred to the Palestine/Egyptian Front and later to France.
THE PALESTINE CAMPAIGN – THE CAPTURE OF THE HOLY LAND.
As hostilities with Turkey continued the Allies remained concerned over the possible threat to the vital Suez Canal. In 1916 British forces opened an offensive against the Turkish controlled Middle East. Arab tribes long hostile against Turkish rule were encouraged to commence guerrilla warfare against the Turkish occupation forces while the British army under General Allenby opened a new front from Egypt across the Sinai desert against the Turks in Palestine. The 5th battalion Connaught Rangers disembarked at Alexandria in Egypt on September 16th 1917 having spent two years on the Salonika Front. Within a month they took part in the third attempt by the Allies to take the fortified towns of Gaza and Beersheba, which protected the entrance to Palestine from Sinai. Gaza fell on October 31st leaving the way open for an advance on Jerusalem, which fell on December 6th 1917. As the combined Turkish and German army retreated north the offensive came to halt through bad weather and the 5th Connaught Rangers spent two months on the Front line north west of Jerusalem. In March 1918 they went into action again talking the enemy held village of Neby Saleh. Offensive operations on the Palestine Front came to an end in April, in consequence of the German break through on the Western Front in France. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine were ordered to send as many troops as possible to France. The 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers embarked at Port Said and left Egypt for the Western Front on May 25 1918.
THE FINAL PHASE OF THE PALESTINE CAMPAIGN
The 1st battalion Connaught Rangers disembarked at Suez, Egypt on April 14th 1918. From May until September they did tours of duty on the Front Line that stretched across Central Palestine between Jerusalem and Nablus. On September 19th 1918 General Allenby resumed his northward offensive to take the rest of Palestine. Caught by surprise and unprepared the Turkish/ German army fell into a disorganised retreat and within 2 days the Turkish HQ garrison at Nazareth was captured. The 1st battalion Connaught Rangers took an active part in this offensive involved in heavy fighting at the taking of ‘Fir Hill’ on the advancing Front north of Jaffa. At the town of El Funduk the Rangers captured a Turkish artillery column intact. It was the 1st Battalion’s final action in the Great War. In late September they were garrisoned at Jenin and later moved in to garrison the Biblical town of Nazareth. The Rangers remained in Nazareth as the battalion was badly affected by a malignant type of malaria later known as the ‘Great Influenza Epidemic’, which took the lives of many men. The retreating Turkish army was followed into Jordan and Syria where they were defeated by Arab armies now in open revolt. Turkey capitulated on October 30th 1918 and brought an end to centuries of the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. On November 11th 1918 the day the Armistice came into effect the 1st battalion Connaught Rangers were still garrisoned in the town of Nazareth. Throughout December 1918 and the early months of 1919 the Connaught Rangers were demobilised and sent home. Their duty done.
Mutiny in India, 1920
On 28 June 1920, five men from C Company of the 1st Battalion at Wellington Barracks, Jalandhar
decided to protest against the effects of Martial law in Ireland
by refusing to soldier. They were soon joined in their protest by other Rangers (the protesters were not all Irishmen and included at least one Englishman)
declaring that they would not return to duty until British forces left Ireland. Led by Private James Daly
(whose brother William took part in the protest at Jalandhar), the protest spread to the Connaught Ranger company at Solon however the Connaught Ranger company at Jutogh
hill-station remained loyal. A party of men led by Daly made an attempt to recover their arms, storming the armoury
. The loyal guard successfully defended it, and two of Daly's party, Privates Patrick Smythe and Peter Sears, were killed in the firefight.
Within days, both garrisons were occupied by loyal troops; Daly and his followers surrendered and were taken prisoner. Eighty-eight mutineers were court martialed
: nineteen men were sentenced to death (eighteen later had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment
), 59 were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment
, and ten were acquitted. The 21-year-old Daly was shot by a firing squad
in Dagshai Prison on 2 November 1920. He was the last member of the British Armed Forces to be executed for mutiny