Sniper on the Ypres Salient: An Infantryman’s War in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers


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By Sue Boase with William McCrae

Forward by Col. Nic Lock, OBE

Just after midnight on 22 April 1916 on the Western Front, a sergeant from the 15th (1st London) Royal Welsh Fusiliers came sliding and stumbling along the dark, mud-filled trench towards the four men, huddled together and soaked-through, in the shallow dugout. He was clutching his postbag in which there were four parcels for one of them, William McCrae, whose twentieth birthday fell on that day.

A hand-written account by William, my grandfather, was found in my mother’s papers, long after his death. This book describes a year of his time fighting in the First World War, from December 1915 to December 1916. Two months after his birthday, he was marching towards the Somme, where he was to act as a runner during the key Welsh engagement in the Battle of Mametz Wood.
Later, he went on to volunteer and train as a sniper. He continued in this role for over a year, becoming a lance corporal in the 38th Divisional Sniping Company while fighting on the Ypres Salient. His words emphasise the key role snipers played in collecting intelligence about the enemy, through close observation and careful reporting.

His account stops abruptly in mid-sentence, just at the point where he indicates he is about to reveal more to us about ‘a new, interesting part of the line to be manned by the Snipers’.
Piecing together clues from his sketches, maps and photos, this book paints a picture of William’s time during the rest of the war.

In 1917 he returned to England to train as a temporary officer in the 18th Officer Cadet Battalion at Prior Park, Bath. He came back to the Western Front as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment where he was second to the 1/5 Lancashire Fusiliers until the end of the war. During this time, it is likely that his interest and experience as a sniper continued, with evidence that he may have taught at one of the sniping schools set up across France.

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Weight 480 g


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The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum

The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum is an independent, registered charity, inside Caernarfon Castle. We rely on grant, donations, and visitor support to carry out our mission to preserve, promote, and educate on the history of the Regiment and remember those who served our country. Proceeds from shopping on our site, booking tours, and purchasing tickets to events go towards care for over 20,000 objects in the collection, providing educational opportunities for schools, groups and international audiences, maintaining the museum, and outreach programs to the community.

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To maintain a leading international Regimental Museum which portrays the story of over 300 years of service by members of the Royal Welch Fusiliers through exhibitions, education, research, and programs.

To assist in keeping the modern Army and the successor Regiment relevant and to increase public awareness of them.

To collect objects and documents relating to the history of the Regiment.

To conserve and document all archives and documents we collect.

To make the archives and reserve collection accessible to researchers and for educational purposes.

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