Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Lewismen help in defence of Antwerp (1914)

Domhnull Glass ( my uncle Donald )was born at No.4 Garenin in 1892,the eldest of a family of 9,my mother being the youngest (born 1911).From Carloway School he was able to progress to the Nicolson Institute,Stornoway."Doodles", as he was called,had his early ambitions of becoming a teacher replaced by that of a life at sea.He returned to Garenin and,like many other Lewis boys,trained with the Royal Naval Reserve ( R.N.R. ).Finally Donald went to sea,and in the early months of the First World War, he volunteered for the Royal Navy.Strangely(perhaps,not),there was an embarrasingly large surplus of RNVR and RNR on the navy's books.Winston Churchill was in 1914 First Lord of the Admiralty when he mobilised the navy,and decided to use the surplus of seamen by forming Royal Naval Brigades,essentially sailors to fight as soldiers.Donald was on HMS Benbow,which along with the seamen of the Collingwood and the Hawke formed the First Royal Naval Brigade (1st RNB ).The 1st RNB along with the 2nd RNB left Dover on the 4th October,1914 for Dunkirk,where they were "entrained" for their transportation to Antwerp to join the 3rd Brigade of Marines in the trenches.The Germans had already taken the outer forts of Antwerp,and the British Naval Division of 6,000 men had been brought up to help the Belgian forces hold the city port of Antwerp.Churchill thought it essential that Antwerp be held.The arms of the Belgian troops were old,the training of the British was inadequate while the German army was superior in number and their guns powerful and accurate.The situation in Belgium was now critical. Antwerp was lost,and it was decided to withdraw the R.N.Division from the line on the 9th October,to be once again "entrained" to Ostend.
The withdrawal was a disaster as 1500 men of the 1st R.N.Brigade were caught in the rear,having failed to cross the River Schelde in time to "catch the train to Ostend". They marched north and were ordered by their Commander Henderson to cross the border into Holland (a neutral country)where they would be interned for the rest of the war,or unless Germany invaded Holland.On the 10th October,1914 ,Antwerp's city fathers surrendered to the Germans.
A little late in the day,Winston Churchill said that the Royal Naval Division was "inexperienced,partially equipped and partially trained". 1500 men of the 1st Naval Brigade did in fact spend "the duration" interned in Holland,and 106 of them came from the Isle of Lewis.My uncle never came back.

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