AS evening fell across the battlefield at the little village of Gheluvelt in western Belgium exactly 100 years ago tonight, the adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment found himself a quiet spot and sat down to write up his war diary for one of the most momentous days fighting of the First World War.

The significance of the counter attack his men had successfully launched against overwhelming odds was not immediately apparent at the time, but was later recognised as being the decisive action that stopped the Germans breaking through the Allied lines and reaching the Channel ports. Had Gheluvelt been lost the war would have been lost too.

At the time each military unit – battalion, brigade, division, corps, army – kept a daily war diary, written up by the adjutant, in pencil, in the field. The entry for 2nd Worcestershire's for October 31, 1914 reads:

"Position of the front line of 1st Division driven in. Battalion ordered to deliver a counter-attack and endeavour to re-occupy trenches of South Wales Borders and Welsh Regiment. Battalion advanced under very heavy shell fire and suffered heavy casualties. Drove the Germans out of the grounds of the Chateau at GHELUVELT and got touch with the South Wales Borderers. No reinforcements arriving, a general withdrawal of the Line was ordered: this commenced Company by Company at about 6pm. Battalion then occupied a line of trenches immediately North of VELDHOEK facing East. On the front line being taken up by 1st Brigade, the Battalion was withdrawn to the reserve at the N.W. Corner of a large wood. (Wounded:- Captain Gascoyne-Williams, Lieutenants ECR Hudson and EA Haskett-Smith. Total casualties about 130)".

The Battalion war diary, held at The National Archives, also contains post-war notes used when compiling the official history of the war. Correspondence in there indicates that events in the week leading up to Gheluvelt took their toll. One letter from Major Stacke, who later was to write the Regimental History, refers specifically to the 2nd Worcestershire's casualties on October 24 as being "easily the heaviest casualties for any single other day in the Ypres 1914 fighting".

While the war diary for October 21 states: "Advanced at 5am in an easterly direction towards WALLEMGLEM, the 4th Guards Brigade on our right and the 1st Division on the left. Held up by a strong force of Germans. Heavy fighting during the whole day and night. Casualties;- Killed 2 officers and 16 men. Wounded 39 men. Missing 3 men. Capt Nolan R.A.M.Corps and Lieut Curtler killed and Lieut EA Haskett-Smith missing – feared killed and can't be found. Dug in hard during the night." More were killed and wounded on 22nd and 23rd and a heavy German attack was driven off - "A most trying night for all".

On October 24 the adjutant wrote: "Marched via St Julien-Wieltje-St Jean to HALTE where we went into bivouac for the very short space of time of about twenty minutes. Orders were then suddenly received to fall in and move due East via Hooge, as the Germans had broken through the line and got into the forest one mile north of GHELUVELT. We advanced into the forest with the Highland L.I. on our right – of course it was impossible to keep touch and units became hopelessly scattered and mixed up, and were undoubtedly firing on each other. It was impossible to know what to do. The enemy were in strength and were expected to push on. We had five officers hit and heavy casualties amongst N.C.O.s and men. By some chance we managed to link up with the right of the Scots Guards (21st Bde) and continued our line facing NE. We then dug ourselves in and remained in the trenches during the night. (Wounded Major Sweetman, Lieutenants Gibson, Heyman and Pope, and Lieutenant Smythe Osborne)"

The battalion tried to advance the next day, were withdrawn on 26th and were in reserve to the advance from October 28-30. In the short space of a week, the 2nd Battalion,Worcestershire Regiment lost about 100 men killed plus countless casualties.