Don’t forget Doulieu

I AM delighted to see the Guernsey Press is supporting the RGLI Charitable Trust’s splendid initiative to raise funds for memorials to the RGLI, one at Les Rues Vertes, near Cambrai in France, and another in the Town Church. However, there seems to be little mention of Doulieu, battle of the Lys, where so many men also fell during that gallant, catastrophic fighting withdrawal against overwhelming force which marked the end of the RGLI as a combat unit. The only mention I have found is in the GP Opinion column of 23 October 2016, that states the Town Church memorial will include those ‘... who faced later final action at Doulieu...’.

Records show that the RGLI’s casualties at Cambrai were (in round figures) 40% (500 casualties) whereas at Doulieu the Battalion suffered an appalling 80% casualties (of the 500 officers and men who marched into Doulieu, 400 became casualties). After Cambrai, because of the shortage of men from Guernsey, 50% of the RGLI were non-Guernsey-born. Nevertheless, these soldiers did not let their adopted island down, so many laying down their lives along with Guernseymen. We should be just as proud of the RGLI at Doulieu as we are of them at Les Rues Vertes, Cambrai.

I heartily support the trust’s initiative and have done so materially. Nevertheless I feel it would be only right and fitting if the initiative could be broadened so as to honour those men of the RGLI, both local and non-local, who fought at Doulieu with such tragic consequences, and for them to be given equal, tangible recognition on the ground in the same way as those at Les Rues Vertes.

Instead of just one memorial in France, perhaps consideration could be given to also placing a memorial at Doulieu, in honour of the RGLI’s ‘gallant service’ in the fighting there, as described by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, who picked out that action for particular mention.

This second memorial could be erected in April 2018, which would mark the centenary of the battle.

It would also provide more time for the Guernsey’s Finest Hour Appeal to run and for necessary arrangements to be made.

NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD

Editor’s footnote: The trustees reply:

As a small group of private individuals, we passionately believe that there should be lasting memorials to Guernsey’s own regiment.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed and supported the initiative to date – the response has been truly overwhelming.

The purpose of the trust is to recognise the RGLI and, given that previous attempts to raise a memorial were unsuccessful, we made a decision to focus on a project we felt comfortable could be delivered. Cambrai was chosen as the first battle of the RGLI and the one where, as your correspondent notes, the battalion was predominantly filled with Guernseymen.

Our appeal began with the specific target to raise funds for two memorials. Firstly in Guernsey at the Town Church, where the RGLI deposited their colours on the day before departure on 1 June 1917, and secondly at the site of the Les Rues Vertes battle, which opened on 30 November 1917. Our object is to commission both of these on the closest possible day to the 100th anniversary this year. We are pleased to be able to say that those arrangements are now well progressed.

This wasn’t the only battle for the RGLI and likewise Guernseymen lost their lives serving in all branches of the armed forces.

However, to ensure a memorial was delivered in this the 100th year we took the decision to focus on Cambrai.

These are considerable undertakings for a small group of volunteers and at this moment we have no plans, finance or manpower resources to raise additional memorials.

Having said that, we would of course be delighted to support and offer assistance for plans which aim to raise separate memorials to the regiment.