Life in the Trenches

Extract from the

4TH BATTALION WAR DIARY

1st - 5th JUL 1917

FRONT LINE opposite CHERISY

1st to 5th July 1917

During these four days the attitude of the enemy was fairly quiet, CURTAIN TRENCH was subject to Artillery Fire and in enfilade from VIS-EN-ARTOIS and was occasionally a very unhealthy spot especially at its junction with Sunken Road in O.31 c. (see map No1 attached). On the evening of July 1st the enemy shelled this area very heavily but it was noticeable that each day his artillery activity lessened. Snipers and Machine Guns did not cause us much annoyance.

OBSERVATION An O.P. with a double loophole was established at the junction of Lark Lane and Stork Trench, and from there a good view could be obtained of the enemys’ back areas immediately behind FONTAINE and CHERISY for a long way back to the DURY to HENDECOURT ROAD. A fine view could also be had from HORSE SHOE SAP.

WORK The main feature of this tour in the front line was the amount of work done on existing and new trenches.

FRONT LINE near CHERISY

WORK

A. Digging

1. The new trench which we dug from CABLE TRENCH to WREN LANE was deepened and widened. 2 posts of B Company held this trench. The trench was called NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE in our honour.

2. SWIFT TRENCH was cleaned out and generally improved, especially the South and marked ‘K’ on Map No1

3. HORSE SHOE SAP cleaned out and fire-bays cut.

4. CURTAIN TRENCH deepened and widened between CABLE TRENCH and LARK LANE. A party of 20 men reported daily to R.E. for this work in addition to the work we did on this trench ourselves. Another party for 10 reported to R.E. each night for the same work.
5. ‘D’ Coy carried rations up for ‘A’ &‘C’ Coys each night.
6. 2/Lt G.E CHARLEWOOD with a few men carried out a daylight and night patrol to investigate HORSE SHOE SAP. They found it in a very bad condition - much old ammunition and boots and general signs of fighting
There were also several dead Germans still lying there in a very bad state of decomposition. The daylight patrol had to be carried out by crawling forward from WREN LANE, as this part was very exposed to enemy’s view.

7. SALVAGE A considerable amount of Salvage material was collected and sent down to the Transport Lines.

8. WIRING About six hundred yards of concertina barbed wire was put out in front of our Sector. There was no wire worth speaking of when we went up to the front line - by the end of 4 days we had wired the whole front from the HENINEL-CHERISY Road to HORSE SHOE SAP and HORSE SHOE SAP was wired all round. The two front companies - A and B provided covering parties for wiring. C Coy did the wiring. The Pioneer Platoon and all available men of C and D Coys carried up wire and iron pickets from dump near ROOKERY.

ORGANIZATION Of the 108 men left behind, a pioneer platoon of 50 men under an officer was formed to do special work. The remainder of the 108 men was left at Transport Lines, where training was carried out. Only twenty officers were taken into action.

CASUALTIES
3rd July 3 O.R. wounded
4th July 3 O.R. wounded
5th July 1 O.R. wounded
TOTAL for tour (including time in support) O.R. 2 killed, 9 wounded.

GAS On night 4th/5th July one of our gas cylinders was burst and the gas escaped and was blown in the direction of the enemy lines. The cylinder was on our front line parapet. No one was affected by this incident except a wiring party which was out in front. They were slightly gassed, but apparently the detonator of the cylinder had not been exploded, for they received no ill effects afterwards.

RELIEF The Battalion was relieved by 5th Northd. Fus. on the early morning of the 5th July and on relief proceeded to our old camp at HENIN, thus becoming Brigade Reserve.

Reproduction of Map No1

from

4th Bn War Diary dated 1-5 JUL 1917

Extract from

'Into Battle - A Soldiers Diary of the Great War'

'We continued all July, working on the trenches, deepening them and putting in shelters for the men. There were comparatively few casualties, as nearly all the work was done at night.

The shelters were cut into the back of the trenches, covered with curved steel corrugated sheets and sandbags. Not a really permanent job, but they were very quick to do, and did not require too many stores, except the steel sectors, which were awkward to carry.

By the end of the month, we had almost every man in the trenches under cover. All north of the Cojeul were anyhow. South of the river we had not quite finished, as there was so much other work to do.
Bosche trench mortars became very troublesome late in July, especially on the sector south of the Cojeul, where they kept firing almost continuously all night, along Buffalo, Ape, Jackdaw and Bison. These fishtail bombs exploded with a very loud detonation, and some of them contained gas, but there did not seem to be much iron in them.
The complement of all the work in the trenches, as already noted, was that we had to carry up all the stores, such as sandbags, iron pickets, wire netting, expanded metal, trench boards and, most difficult of all, curved corrugated steel sheets to roof dugouts'. (Glubb, J. p.175).

Note: John Glubb was a regular Royal Engineer (RE) officer in the 50th Division.

Life in the trenches - Locations

Ape - Trench occupied by British.

Bison - Trench occupied by British.

Buffalo - Trench occupied by British.

Cable Trench - (map No1)

Cherisy - (map No1)

Cojeul - River running east -west through the northern part of the sector

Curtain Trench - (map No1)

Dury -

Fontaine - (map No1)

Hendecourt Road -

Horse Shoe Sap -

Jackdaw - Trench occupied by British (map No1).

Lark Lane - (map No1)

Northumberland Avenue -

Rookery -

Stork Trench - (map No1)

Sunken Road -

Swift Trench - (map No1)

Vis en Artois -

Wren Lane -