Bristol army Reservists commemorate their heroic WW1 forebears

01.12.2014

Serjeant Alf CleallBristol-based Reservists of 93 (North Somerset Yeomanry) Support Squadron, 39 Signal Regiment, gathered in the chapel at historic Tyntesfield House to commemorate one of the earliest actions by Territorials in the First World War.

It was an heroic and successful stand at Zillebeke by the North Somerset Yeomanry, called up to hold front-line trenches near Ypres on 15-18 November 1914. But it was costly, too.

Like the Army Reservists of 93 Squadron who proudly bear their name today, the North Somerset Yeomanry were raised in and around Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare and also in surrounding market towns and villages.

A Squadron (Bath) bore the brunt of the first attack on 16 November, suffering heavy losses under 12 hours of bombardment, and were then relieved by B Squadron (Weston-super-Mare). Shelling resumed next morning and intensified through the day.

In the early afternoon the Yeomanry fought off a massed charge by the Germans who attacked again at 4pm. Despite superior numbers, the enemy was forced finally to abandon their assault.

The Officer Commanding B Squadron, Captain Frederick Liebhart, was among those killed, as was Serjeant Alf Cleall, vice-chairman of Bath Rugby Club. Serjeant Cleall’s grave was never found and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The final toll was three officers and 22 NCOs and other ranks. Three were recorded as ‘missing’ and 39 wounded out of a total of 64 casualties from ‘200 rifles’.

The commemorative service, with hymns, prayers and readings, was led by the Chaplain, the Venerable David Sutch TD, who was Squadron Honorary Colonel 2003-2008. Major Andy Morris, Officer Commanding 93 (NSY) Support Squadron, read extracts from the NSY’s War Diary and also from a letter by a survivor recounting the heroism and fatal wounding of Serjeant Cleall, who was posthumously mentioned in despatches.

A feature of the commemoration was a WW1 post box brought back after the war by survivors and inscribed with the names of comrades who fell in battle. In recent years it had stood barely noticed in an Army Reserve Centre in Taunton.

The Squadron has historic connections with Tyntesfield through the Gibbs family who established the house and its estate, now owned by the National Trust.

93 (NSY) Support Squadron today provides vital trades and skills in support of 39 Signal Regiment, which trains and deploys high-readiness Reserves in the event of national emergencies.

For more information about 93 (NSY) Support Squadron call 01985 223723 or to find out about opportunities in the TA visit

www.army.mod.uk/join/20237.aspx.



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