James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Noel killed in action

Noel’s grandmother, Elizabeth Owen, in a letter dated 25 September to her son Frank in Canada, wrote, "Noel is out with the fighting forces in France – so far alright. He is now promoted to First Lieutenant." Four days later Noel was killed. He was twenty-one and the war was to end less than two months later.

The War Diary describes events: "The Battalion proceeded to Klein Zillebeke (map), at which spot it halted and the officers attended a conference with the Brigadier General. At this time it was stated that Zantvoorde had been taken [This was a village that had been in enemy hands for almost four years] and instructions were given to break into artillery formation there and attack down the ridge, where but little opposition was anticipated. However, on leaving Zantvoorde very heavy MG [Machine gun] fire was brought to bear upon the Battalion. Lieut. W.N.D. Tyson and several men were killed and others were wounded. An attempt to envelop the MGs did not succeed and many more casualties were sustained from shell and MG fire. A small artillery barrage was then put down and once more the Battalion attacked and again many casualties were sustained. Sudden orders were then received to cease the attack and to return behind the ridge from which the attack had started."

The diary did not tell the full story of what happened on that chilly, misty morning. According to Arthur Crookenden, the battalion lost its way in the mist but once they had regained their bearings, the men pressed on with the attack in the expectation of little resistance; however, "instead of approaching Zandevoorde from the north-west, [the battalion] came at it from the west and suffered severely from machine guns on the extreme point of the Zandevoorde Spur." That afternoon the 15th Sherwood Foresters and 4th N Staffs, attacking from the north-west, finished the job the Cheshires had started and captured the village.

According to Stephen McGreal in his book, Cheshire Bantams, the C.O., who would have ordered the attack, did not see Noel's death as a futile loss of life: "Our battalion was advance guard to the brigade; he was in command of the vanguard when they struck a strong enemy position with many machine gun nests. He extended his men and boldly attacked the postion, being killed instantly by machine gun fire, but doing his duty by locating and finding the strength of the enemy position, probably thereby saving many lives, as we were enabled to make a strong circling movement and capture the village within a few hours."