James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

The Battle of Festubert

Maj. Charles Burrard, 9th RWF Major Burrard (pictured right) the most senior officer of the 9th RW Fusiliers to survive the carnage that was to ensue, wrote in the regimental diary for 25 September, 1915: "5.50 a.m. Our artillery started a furious bombardment. I hurried down to the firing line and found the smoke candles at work. On my way there I observed a mile to the south a thin cloud floating slowly towards the German lines; this I took to be asphyxiating gas. The breeze was very slight but seemed to have turned temporarily in our favour. It was not to be depended on however and too weak and I am of the opinion that the pall of smoke in front of our lines did more harm than good as it brought on inactivity on the part of our artillery. The smoke was intended to supplement the gas and mislead the Hun into believing that there was an immense amount of that commodity coming towards them. None of our men were injured by our own gas though I believe a few of the 6th Wilts suffered." His sketch of the scene of battle appears in the diary but the description in the diary of the 9th Welsh Regiment suggests that the 9th RW Fusiliers were to the left of Fife Road and the Welsh Regiment to the right of it.

A sheaf of rockets sent up by Brigade HQ marked the start of the attack at 06.30, though it seems that the directing company of the RW Fusiliers moved forward slightly earlier. Four platoons of the 9th Welsh advanced over the parapet, closely followed by the supporting platoons of their companies and followed in turn by the leading platoons of the other two companies. The diary of the 9th Welsh Regiment described events: "Immediately the gas and smoke was observed the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment with HE shells and swept the ground and parapet with rifle and machine gun fire. The shell fire caught D Company who by 6.30 a.m. were in the new support trench and caused them heavy casualties. The leading and support platoons as soon as they were over the parapet were met by the most intensive rifle and machine gun fire and suffered heavy casualties without being able to make ground. By about 6.40 a.m. the casualties were already over 200 and all outside the parapet were exposed to a deadly fire from shrapnel, rifles and machine guns."