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Lieutenant H W Windeler, Grenadier Guards
Killed in Bourlon Wood, 27th November 1917

Lieutenant Herbert Windeler,
Grenadier Guards

Bourlon Wood - 25th November 2017

On 20th November 1917, an Allied armoured attack punched a hole through the German defences near the small French town of Cambrai. The Allied tanks advanced some five miles beyond the German Hindenburg Line and the attack was a considerable success by the end of the first day. Whilst the Allied advance was halted by a relentless German counter-attack, on 23rd November the Allies began the fight for control of Bourlon Ridge. The fighting took four days and over 4,000 casualties before the ridge was taken, with the final push on 27th November. The following day, the Allies were ordered to dig-in, as over 16,000 shells from German artillery were fired into Bourlon Wood. On Saturday 25th November 2017, the French village of Bourlon welcomed a British family of 20 into their homes. The centenary of the Battle of Bourlon Wood was marked with a remembrance service held in the heart of the wood, the French people of Bourlon giving homage to those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice 100 years ago. Lieutenant Herbert Windeler was an officer in No 2 Company, 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards who led his platoon into Bourlon Wood for the final assault on 27th November 1917. Aged 19, he was killed by a German sniper during the advance and was buried by his orderly in the wood before the German bombardment the next day. His story is an interesting one. He was born and raised in the United States of America to British and American parents but volunteered to fight during the war. He was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and posted to the 4th Battalion. Following Herbert Windelerís death in 1917, his parents erected a memorial to him in Bourlon Wood. Knowledge of him passed out of living memory of his family until around 10 years ago, when a simple Google search of the family name showed a photo of his memorial in France. On visiting his memorial, his family discovered that Herbert is considered by the people of Bourlon as being the face of the Allied effort in 1917. The remembrance of his sacrifice, and the sacrifice of the many thousands of other Allied soldiers in November 1917, was at the fore of the service in 2017. The family of 20 that was so generously hosted by the locals of Bourlon were the family of Herbert Windeler, and on that day in November 2017, everyone at the service was bound by an immense sense of gratitude to Herbert and all those who lost their lives during the Battle of Bourlon.

Tom Holmes



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