Personal info

  • Name: Cyril Edward GOURLEY
  • D.O.B: 19th January, 1893
  • D.O.A: 30th November, 1917
  • D.O.D: 31st January, 1982
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Sergeant, ‘D’ Battery, 276th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (TF), 55th Division
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Cambrai, France 30 November-1 December 1917

30 November-1 December 1917

More details about:
The First World War 1917 

On 30 November 1917, the Germans launched a major counter-attack on the Cambrai front and broke through the British line south of the Canal de St Quentin. This was to lead to the loss of much of the new British salient including Gonnelieu and Villers-Guislain. 17th Battalion The Middlesex Regiment were at the north of the line near the Canal du Nord just east of Moeuvres. Acting Captain A M C McReady-Diarmid led many counter-attacks on that and the following day until he was killed in action. From here the line led eastwards to Bourlon Wood. 17th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers, who were in this sector, were ordered to withdraw from their advanced positions and concentrate on the defence of the main line. Acting Captain W N Stone, who was in a long trench called the ‘Rat’s Tail’ which ran towards the German lines, played a vital role in this withdrawal, sacrificing his life in the process. 176th Brigade held the line between Bourlon Wood and Cantaing to the south-east and faced two enemy infantry attacks, though these were minor compared with the assault taking place to the west. During this action, Lance Corporal J Thomas, 2/5th (TF) Battalion The North Staffordshire Regiment, carried out a reconnaissance of buildings at the western end of Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Here the line turned south-east and crossed the Canal de St Quentin to Masnières. However the Germans had broken the line south of here and were able to enter Les Rues Vertes, on the west bank of the canal from Masnières, from the south, also menacing Marcoing to the west. Temporary Captain R Gee, 2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers, with only six men, began to clear Les Rues Vertes of German troops, erecting makeshift barricades of furniture. In the 86th Brigade ammunition store, two German soldiers tried to seize him but he escaped. As British reinforcements arrived, he continued to drive the enemy out of the village. The Germans then attempted to established a machinegun position a hundred yards south-west of the village but Capt Gee charged and captured the gun. To the south, 8th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers held part of Pelican trench, just south of where the road from Péronne joins the road north from St Quentin to Cambrai at the foot of the Bonavis Ridge. When the Germans advanced in overwhelming numbers, Lieutenant Colonel Elliot-Cooper led his men in a desperate counter-attack up the Bonavis Ridge. He was wounded and captured but his gallant action gave the remainder of the Battalion time to rally south of La Vacquerie. However, the village of Gonnelieu was retaken by the Germans. Lieutenant S T D Wallace, Royal Field Artillery, distinguished himself in the fighting here. The southern limit of the German breakthrough was Eagle Quarry west of Vendhuille. The enemy attempt to press south at this point towards Lempire was partly frustrated by the gallantry of Sergeant C E Gourley, who commanded a section of D/276th Battery near Little Priel Farm east of Épehy.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery when in command of a section of howitzers. Though the enemy advanced in force, getting within 400 yards in front, between 300 and 400 yards to one flank and with snipers in rear, Sjt. Gourley managed to keep one gun in action practically thoughout the day. Though frequently driven off he always returned, carrying ammunition, laying and firing the gun himself, taking first one and then another of the detachment to assist him. When the enemy advanced he pulled his gun out of the pit and engaged a machine gun at 500 yards, knocking it out with a direct hit. All day he held the enemy in check, firing with open sights on enemy parties in full view at 300 to 800 yards, and thereby saved his guns, which were withdrawn at nightfall. He had previously been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry. 

Supplement to The London Gazette of 12 February 1918. 13 February 1918, Numb. 30523, pp. 2004-05

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