Surveyors at the Battle of Passchendaele

Cathy Linacre

Head of Reference Service (RICS)

Monday 31 July 2017 sees the official celebrations marking the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, which lasted until 6 November and was fought for control of the ridges south and east of the City of Ypres.

The battle is infamous due to the mud and the scale of the casualties, with 550,000 troops wounded, missing or lost on the two sides. 90,000 British and Commonwealth troops were recorded as missing, 50,000 buried without being identified and 40,000 never recovered from the battle field.

The Surveyors’ Institution, as we were then known, lost 26 professionals, including five of from the Valuation Office. The worst day for our organisation was 30 October 1917 when four members were killed, all serving with the Artists’ Rifles and listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial which commemorates soldiers with no known grave.

They represent all aspects of our organisation with one fellow, Arnold Edwin Bare, two Professional Associates (as MRICS were then called), Robert Herman Barclay and Herbert Arthur Coningsbury and one student Charles Valentine Boulton.

I have only managed to find more substantial details than our own records offer on two of the members we lost but they are great examples of innovative and brave men.

Conrad Hugh Dinwiddy

According to De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, a memorial book published after the war, Dinwiddy was a junior partner at Dinwiddy & Sons, architects and surveyors. He was a councillor of the Borough of Kensington and had been selected to become a candidate for Parliament. He was a prolific journalist and capable speaker.

He died at No 2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium on 27 September 1917 from wounds received in action near Ypres the previous day.

Early in the war he voluntarily studied gunnery and invented the Dinwiddy Aircraft Range Finder, which after severe official tests, was patented, and was installed in the London Defences. He also invented a gunnery slide rule. Whilst serving he also invented new methods of night firing, submitted a scheme for barge mounted batteries and improved methods of ammunition supply.

Frank Goldsmith

Goldsmith was awarded the military cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on 3 September 1916. The citation read :

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during attack. He showed great skill in organising under very heavy shellfire. When his Commanding Officer had fallen he took command, and led a few men right up to the enemy wire. Though wounded, he remained at duty till the close of the action. His courage and coolness were an inspiring example to his men.

He was then awarded a bar to the cross on 1 February 1917, the equvilent of a second military cross. That citation read :

Major Goldsmith led his men to the front line under heavy gun fore in readiness to deliver a counter attack. Later he organised a patrol which he personally led into No Man’s Land in pursuit of the enemy raiders. On this occasion Major Goldsmith led his men in mud up to their waists in very cold wind and rain. Passing a senior officer, who was wounded and unable to move, he took off his own tunic to cover him up, and then went on with a few men into a German trench. Arriving in the later, he found he has discarded his revolver with his tunic, but picked up a German one which was empty and which his cartridges wouldn’t fit. However he went on down the trench and held up eight German’s with the empty pistol, bringing them back with him and rescuing the Colonel on his way. The exposure to inclement weather without a tunic for hours gave him a sever chill, seriously threatening pneumonia. A typical instance of his character.

He was killed in action on the Menin Road on 26 September 1917.

See the full list of surveyors who lost their lives at the battle; do you have information on anyone? Let us know by leaving your comments below.

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