Personal info

  • Name: Frederick BIRKS
  • D.O.B: 16th August, 1894
  • D.O.A: 21st September, 1917
  • D.O.D: 21st September, 1917
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Second Lieutenant, 6th Battalion (Victoria), 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force
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The Menin Road Ridge, Belgium 20-22 September 1917

20-22 September 1917

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The First World War 1917 

On 20 September 1917, the second phase of the Third Battle of Ypres began. In what is known as the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, the British Second and Fifth Armies were able to capture the main ridge east of Ypres before the weather deteriorated. Fifth Army attacked along a line running south from the Ypres to Staden railway, east of Langemark, to a position west of Zonnebeke, south of the Ypres to Roulers railway. The 2/8th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (The Post Office Rifles, The Rifle Brigade), advanced near Kerselaere, south-east of Langemark and north-east of St Julien. Sergeant A J Knight distinguished himself in the fighting around Hubner Farm, a German stronghold to the east of Keerselare. Over two miles to the south 2nd Battalion The South African Light Infantry was north of the Ypres to Roulers road and 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) was south of it. In the heavy fighting between Frezenberg and Zonnebeke that resulted, Lance Corporal W H Hewitt, 2nd South African Light Infantry, gallantly captured a German pillbox, while Temporary Captain H Reynolds, 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), led the assault on another in front of Potsdam Farm. South of the Ypres to Roulers railway the proposed advance across the Gheluvelt plateau devolved on Second Army. At the north of the Second Army line, 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions advanced due east of Ypres. During the fighting in Glencourse Wood, which lay north of the Ypres-Menin road and north-west of Gheluvelt, Second Lieutenant F Birks captured two German pillboxes, while Private R R Inwood distinguished himself in the action in Polygon Wood, which lay to the east of Glencourse Wood and about midway between Zonnebeke and Gheluvelt. Meanwhile, south of the Menin Road, after an earlier assault by other regiments had failed, at 6pm 15th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment was ordered to take Tower Trench, a German strongpoint on a ridge just west of Gheluvelt. (Because of the pillboxes surrounding it, the area was nicknamed Tower Hamlets.) Second Lieutenant M S S Moore led the assault and reached the position, where he held out for thirty-six hours, before withdrawing with his surviving men. About a mile to the south-west, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade and 16th and 17th Battalions The Sherwood Foresters were detailed to attack the German line near Bulgar Wood, east of Zillebeke. In the course of the fighting Sergeant W F Burman, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade, having already destroyed one German position, together with Sergeant Major H W Bean, attacked another position that was firing on 16th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters. Bean was awarded a DCM for his role in the action. Corporal E A Egerton of The Sherwood Foresters, whose elder brother William had been killed in action on 17 August, distinguished himself by single-handedly capturing a German stronghold known as Welbeck Grange. Further south still, 9th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment advanced south-east of Zillebeke. Second Lieutenant H Colvin captured one German dugout and then in Hessian Wood attacked another, which was impeding the progress of 9th Battalion The Welsh Regiment.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery in attack when accompanied by only a corporal, he rushed a strong point which was holding up the advance. The corporal was wounded by a bomb, but 2nd Lt. Birks went on by himself killed the remainder of the enemy occupying the position, and captured a machine gun. Shortly afterwards he organised a small party and attacked another strong point which was occupied by about twenty-five of the enemy, of whom many were killed and an officer and fifteen men captured. During the consolidation this officer did magnificent work in reorganising parties of other units which had been disorganised during the operations. By his wonderful coolness and personal bravery 2nd Lt. Birks kept his men in splendid spirits throughout. He was killed at his post by a shell whilst endeavouring to extricate some of his men who had been buried by a shell. 

Third Supplement to The London Gazette of 6 November 1917. 8 November 1917, Numb. 30372, p. 11568

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