Raid on Celtic Wood - 9 October 1917
This action is included on this site because of the controversy which surrounded it for nearly 100 years. The fate of the raiders, most of whom allegedly 'disappeared' and were 'not properly accounted' for became 'one of the great mysteries of the AIF'. Inference and speculation has led to conspiracy theories of murder by the Germans, incompetence by the CO and others. This happened largely because of a 'one liner' by CEW Bean which has been misinterpreted and then that error compounded by failure of successive authors in a 'Chinese Whispers' effect to check the primary source documents held in abundance by the Australian War Memorial. That research has been completed by VWM senior researcher Robert 'Dogs' Kearney over more than 10 years, initially in collaboration with Chris Henschke, and published in his book 'Raid on Celtic Wood' released on the centenary of the raid. All 88 raiders are accounted for on this page.
The 3rd Brigade moved into the front line on Broodseinde Ridge along with the rest of the 1st Division on the 6th/7th October 1917 following its spectacular capture by the 2nd and 5th Divisions at the Battle of the same name on 4th October.
In line with orders from HQ 1st Division the Brigade was directed to conduct a series of raids into the area defined by a farm (Celtic Farm) and a nearby wood, known as Celtic Wood, in which German field defences and strongpoints were know to exist.
Preceded by a smaller raid made by a composite party drawn from the 11/12th Battalions, the CO of the 10th Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Wilder-Nelligan, was tasked to conduct a raid of company strength in order to synchronise with the opening of the Battle of Poelcapelle (aka Passchendaele) on the morning of the 9th October, in order to draw German artillery and flanking fire away from the main attack further to the north.
Wilder-Nelligan was not at all enamored of the concept of what was effectively directed to be a daylight raid on a position that had alredy been attacked by the 10th's sister battalions only a few days earlier. Further he was concerned that he did not have the strength in numbers to conduct the raid without reinforcements.
Content under development