Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Remembering James Alfred Ryder

On this day, one hundred years ago, my Grand Uncle was killed.

James joined the Manchester Regiment in 1914, aged 28. He was awarded the Military Medal in October 1917,  for conspicuous bravery under fire.

The Manchesters lost communications during the battle of Poelcappel (Paschendale). Progress was relayed to Headquarters via lamps and runners. James had volunteered to act as a runner.

From the London Gazette Supplement 14 January 1918 "His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Non-Commissioned Officers and Men:- Page 842 303395 Pte J A.

By 1918, James had been promoted to Lance  Corporal with the 2/6 Battalion.

On 21 March, 1918, 2/6 Manchesters were in position, on the front line, to the North of St Quentin. Dawn broke to reveal a heavy morning mist. By 05:00, visibility was barely 10 m (10 yd) in places and the fog was extremely slow to dissipate throughout the morning. The fog and smoke from the bombardment made visibility poor throughout the day, allowing the German infantry to infiltrate deep behind the British Lines.

Forward communications were instantly severed and the situation so obscure and chaotic that, to this day, it is difficult to reconstruct the events of 21 March 1918. Up until about 11 a.m. the Germans delivered a terrifically heavy barrage mixed with heavy concentrations of Mustard Gas. At 11.25 199 Brigade HQ received a report that forward outposts held by 2/5 and 2/6 Manchesters had been surprised in the flank due to a retirement by the 16th Division on their left. They therefore pulled back to the vicinity of Cote Wood and Carpeza Copse. 

Company of 2/6 Manchesters had formed a defensive position at Fervaque Farm. They beat off several very heavy attacks but the Germans brought up flamethrowers and at 1.30 p.m. the farm fell. 

Only eight men survived.

James Alfred has no known grave. He is remembered at Poziers War Memorial.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, and increasing interest in geneology, I have found other descendents of J.A. Ryder and learned more about his life and the family he left behind in Manchester.

Today, we remember him.

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