James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Billy among the injured

The regimental diary continues: "Our action north of the La Bassée canal (pictures) was intended as a demonstration, the principle attack being carried out south of the canal; our energetic action was the means of withdrawing several battalions of reserve to our front line, which the Germans would otherwise have utilised further south. But could not this advantage have been gained without such loss of life?" Major Burrard was highly critical of the lack of appraisal of the effect of the heavy bombardments before the attack; it neither lowered German morale nor significantly damaged their wire or other ordnance.

General Willcocks, whose troops were also to be involved in ‘subsidiary attacks’ had voiced concerns to Haig, prior to the battle, that such engagements were usually denied the support provided for the main attack and he feared excessive casualties: he had been summarily dismissed but in the event he was proved right. In the trenches, between 30 August and the evening of 24 September, Billy's battalion had lost two men, with eleven wounded. Amongst its 25 officers and 781 men who went into battle on the 25 September, there were 249 casualties, one of which was Billy Owen, its Officer in Charge of Scouts.

The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, 15 October 1915 (click here to view) reported:

Mr. W. P. Owen has received a letter from Corporal Hockridge of the 9th Welsh Regiment saying he thought Mr. Owen would like to know something of the particulars of Lieut. Owen's wounding on the 25th September. The company was given the order to advance over the parapet which they did to a man through a hail of shrapnel and machine gun fire. Those who were lucky enough to escape kept on advancing until within a few yards of the German trenches. They were lying down waiting for reinforcements which never came as the fire of the enemy was too deadly. Whilst lying there he saw Lieut. Owen hit and managed to crawl to him. He was wounded very badly in the back by a bullet. Corporal Hockridge bandaged him and, with the undaunted courage which Lieut. Owen always set for his company, he insisted on crawling back, wounded as he was, and knowing that he would have again to go through the hail of fire before reaching a place of safety which he eventually reached.
Corporal Hockridge's further comments appear on this page