17 February is a day commemorated by the Cheshire Regiment, known as Meeanee Day it commemorates the Battle of Meeanee fought 17 February 1843. Sir Charles Napier led a force of around 2,500 consisting of native infantry and the Cheshire Regiment against the combined armies of the Baluchi Ameers of Scinde and the Sikhs of the Punjab, which is now part of Pakistan but at the time was India.
74 years later 17 February 1917, the 10th battalion Cheshire Regiment carried out a trench raid on an area known as Factory Farm, east of Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium. The war dairy states:
17th February 1917
MEEANEE Day. At 10:40am One Officer + 65 other ranks from A, C and D companies under Captain Appleton, successfully raided the enemy trenches north of Factory Farm, inflicting heavy casualties upon the enemy. Many dugouts were bombed. Bombed dugouts and trench material destroyed. Ten prisoners were taken, 8 of that number were caught by their own machine gun fire and killed crossing No Man’s Land to our line.
This raid was planned in meticulous detail over the first couple of weeks of February. 70 men from each of three companies were picked and each was trained in his task. A life size model of the enemy positions was made so the party could practice. For days, prior to the raid British artillery shelled No Man’s Land to cut the German wire.
At 10:40am, the men left their trenches in two parties. The right-hand party, commanded by Captain Appleton, was about halfway across the 200 yards of No Man's Land when an enemy machine gun opened fire, causing a few casualties. When they reached the enemy wire, they found it had not been destroyed, but it was still possible to get through. At that point a second machine gun started to fire and, in front of them, the Cheshire’s could see the enemy trench full of troops. They quickly took shelter in shell holes and waited for a few minutes in the hope that the other party would be able to help them. It was impossible to make any further progress and Capt. Appleton made the decision to withdraw. It was while they were making their way back to their own trenches that most casualties occurred.
The left-hand party, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Rowe, reached the enemy trench without much difficulty, but was then fired on by a machine gun. Lance Corporal Nicholls knocked it out by pointing his Lewis gun through a loophole in the German sandbags and emptying the full magazine. Lt Rowe bayoneted three Germans and shot two more. About 20 more tried to run away from the raiders but were all killed. The War Diary records that "there were about 4 Germans in each dugout. They refused to come out and were consequently bombed, first with Mills bombs and then Fumite bombs. They must nearly all have been killed as they were unable to get around a corner to avoid the bombs and could be heard screaming." At 11.10, Lt Rowe gave the order to withdraw. This was costly as a sniper had taken up position and machine guns were sweeping No Man's Land.
The raid had killed around 50 of the enemy and had taken 10 prisoners, although eight were killed on the way back by fire from the German machine gun. However, 53 raiders had themselves lost their lives and another 60 wounded.
Four months later, 7 June 1917 the opening day of the Battle of Messines, Factory Farm and Ultimo were two of the 19 locations where mines were blown by the British, the craters can still be seen today.
Those who fell on the 17 February 1917
11049 Private HARRY BARLOW, Stockport.
49431 Private HARRY BARLOW, Birkenhead.
49437 Private ERNEST BELL, Eastham.
10238 Private CLIFFORD BIGNALL, Crewe.
50041 Private JOHN CHARLES BROADHEAD, Rainow.
10746 Private EDWARD BURKE, Birkenhead.
53055 Lance Corporal PETER CAPPER, Newton-le -Willows.
434 Lance Corporal CHARLES CLIFFE, New Ferry.
24817 Private THOMAS HENRY DAGGER, Kirkham, Lancs.
49471 Private JAMES DAVIES, Birkenhead.
36774 Private HARRY DEAN, Winsford.
34520 Private JOHN EDWARD FREEMAN, Stockport.
14770 Corporal ARTHUR GERRARD, Chester.
44253 Private LEWIS HALL, Cheadle Hulme.
10152 Lance Corporal GEORGE WILIAM HAYES, Rock Savage.
35698 Private HARRY HELSBY, Frodsham.
13115 Lance Corporal THORNTON HICKSON, Lostock Gralam.
11137 Private JOSEPH HOLLAND, Northwich.
39996 Private PERCY HOUGHTON, Tranmere.
35717 Private THOMAS HUGHES, Birkenhead.
9958 Corporal CHARLES HENRY JONES, Everton, Liverpool.
36169 Private GEORGE JONES, Chester.
15004 Private HENRY JONES, Newton.
36152 Private JOHN KELLY, Sandbach.
24209 Private ALBERT KETTLE, Northwich.
18371 Private JAMES KETTLE, Northwich.
32592 Private THOMAS LARDNER, Runcorn.
W/316 Private JAMES LEADBEATER, Eastham.
35845 Private JOHN LITTLE, Wallasey.
13238 Private STEPHEN LLOYD, Chester.
15518 Private JOHN LOUGHLIN, Preston, Lancs.
35435 Private HAROLD FIELING LOWCOCK, Rochdale, Lancs.
26681 Private JOHN LOWNDES, Stockport.
25200 Private JOHN McGarry, Crewe.
36741 Private WILLIAM MORREY, Crewe.
36824 Private WALTER NEWTON, Hyde.
44337 Lance Corporal GEORGE HENRY NICHOLS, Liverpool.
44259 Private HENRY OLDHAM, Carlisle.
14008 Serjeant WILLIE HEATH POVEY, Tintwistle.
33423 Private HAROLD REEVES, Christleton.
24492 Private WALTER GARNER RICHARSON, Birkenhead.
31566 Private WILLIAM RILEY, Parr, Lancs.
8998 Serjeant ARTHUR SCRAGG, Macclesfield.
36237 Private HARRY SLATER, Wolverhampton.
11617 Private GEORGE SMITH, New Brighton.
10801 Private JAMES SMITH, Rodeheath.
44284 Private THOMAS SOUTHERN, Moulton.
35282 Private JAMES SPILSBURY, Knutsford.
16217 Serjeant JAMES STANTON, Stockport.
44158 Private JOHN TILSLEY, Nantwich.
18468 Serjeant FRANK WAINWRIGHT, Glossop.
W/544 Private CHARLES WILKINS, Birkenhead.
34 of the 53 men lost have no known grave and are named on the Ploegsteert Memorial, 17 are buried in Berks Cemetery Extension.
14004 Lance Serjeant WALTER HARROP, Burton on Trent, Staffs.
Second Lieutenant JOHN CARLTON MANNING, St. Michael, Barbados, British West Indies.
Both died of wounds on the 17 February and are buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, which just 18Kms away from Ploegsteert.
The next day would see two more from the battalion succumbed to their wounds.
10436 Private Michael Little, Stockport.
36307 Private Richard Ryan, Birkenhead.
The last known soldier to die from wounds received on the raid, is
14732 Sergeant John Henry Gleave, Lostock.