The Somme Sector

1st , 2nd & 3rd February 1917

Early in Feb rumours circulated that in a little while the Divn was to take over a portion of the French Line. Operation Orders were issued on the 7th stating that on the nights of the 13th/14th and 14th/15th the 50th Divn was to relieve the 35th and 36th French Divns in front of Belloy en Santerre1 and Berny en Santerre2 . This was part of a gradual extension of the British Front southwards as far as a point opposite the town of Roye3 . (50th Divn)

DERNANCOURT

Bn continued to train as on previous days. A party was detailed to proceed to Rue Des Illieux, Albert to fix up bathing apparatus for the whole Bde. In spite of pipes being frozen the majority of the men were bathed.

4th & 5th Feb

Training continued. Coys were practised in musketry on range allotted to us.

6th Febuary 1917

GOC 149th Infantry Bde inspected the Bn in full marching order.

7th February 1917

Lt T.A.L Thompson returned from leave on the 4th Feb 1917 and resumed duties of acting Adjt. Capt C Stephenson also returned from leave. 2nd Lt W.C Clemitson and seventeen men rejoined from base.

8th February 1917

At 9am the Bn marched off for Mericourt Sur Somme. Progress was very slow on account of having to halt whilst the Divn Train Transport, 2nd Field Ambulance and 446th Field Coy RE caught up with the rest of the column. Route lay via Buire Crossroads4, Ville Morlancourt5, Chipilly6, Cerissy7, Morcourt8and Mericourt Sur Somme9. Bn was billeted in houses and farms around Mericourt. The remainder of the Bde were billeted in large huts in vicinity of village. The intense cold prevailed. An enemy aeroplane flew over about 10.30pm and dropped bombs.

9th February 1917

Coys exercised in Coy drill.

10th February 1917

The Bn marched seven miles via Chuignolles and Chuignes to Bois Touffu. Dugout accommodation was found for the whole Bn.

BELLOY

11th February 1917

2nd Lt T Bonner was the recipient of the Croix de Guerre.

7pm Relieved 123rd Regt (French)

The ground was frozen hard on the 12th of Feb. The trenches occupied by the 4th Bn were in good condition although there were no revettments. At 6pm, ‘D’ Coy moved up in close support to the 7th Bn.
Work. Latrines and sanitary arrangements improved, and trenches cleaned.

Enemy artillery quiet during day and night, village occasionally shelled with 5.9’s.

No casualties

13th February 1917

Trenches and dugouts cleaned, and draining commenced in Boyau Bouchet. Enemy artillery shelled village area N 21 A occasionally with 5.9’s

7pm ‘D’ Coy returned to this sector.

14th February 1917

The trenches were cleaned, but, because the ground was frozen revetting could not start, but material was carried up to Argonne Trench and Bouchot Trench in preparation for when the thaw commenced.

11am to 1pm Area N21 A behind village heavily shelled with 5.9s and occasionally during day and night. 'C' Coy cookhouse blown in.

6pm ‘C’ Coy moved up in support of the 5th Bn in Trench De Hures.

15th February 1917

At 8am work and preparations for revetting Communication Trench No8 commenced l' Argonne Trench10 and Bouchot Trench11. Work continued throughout day, and carried by two parties of fifty from 6th Bn at night. One hundred yards in each trench, sides sloped and 2ft berm about sixty yards each.
Shelling of area N21 A desultory during daytime increasing towards midnight. Ten gas shells were sent over and fell near the junction of Trench De Parc12 and Bouchot. At 4pm a French bomb stores (near dump) at N21 C 80 exploded causing casualties, and a fire amongst RE material, which took until 4am the following morning to extinguish. One man killed and six wounded.

16th February 1917

On the 16th work continued on Argonne and Bouchot trenches and carried on at night-time by two parties from the 6th Bn. More material carried up ready for use ‘C’ Coy commenced work on Boyau II Bis sloping sides, materials carried up from Belloy for their use. Gas shells and 5.9s fell in Belloy during day and night. Much aerial activity and good observation. Casualties – One man wounded.

At 8am work continued on Argonne and Bouchot trenches, about 300 to 350 yards in each trench done with about 150 yards 2ft berm dug. The work was continued by two parties from the 6th Bn at night.
Boyau II Bis. 'C' Coy worked on this, sides sloped, duckboards repaired and laid.

The following RE material carried up from Belloy to Argonne and Bouchot. 800 long pickets, 15 coils wire, 50 sheets expanded metal and 100 trench boards. Our trenches now show signs of falling in owing to thaw. Gas and 5.9s shells fell occasionally in village day and night.

7pm to 12pm Enemy machine guns fired bursts of fire evidently intended for dump, bullets fell near PC Gaudy from direction Barleux.

18th February 1917

Argonne Trench 50 yards revetted 200 yards cleared of mud. Channels cut under duckboards.

Bouchot Trench 60 feet revetted

Trench de Hures 70 yards one side revetted

Marchal Trench 50 wooden stakes driven in

Boyau 2 Bis 200 yards relaid, 50 yards new duckboards laid

Trench du Parc Channels out under duckboards draining

Materials carried up to various trenches for work. Two rolls of rabbit wire, 100 x 6’ posts, 68 pickets, 34 duckboards, 170 pickets, 50 duckboards, 27 trenchboards.

11.30am Activity occasionally shelling in area. Heavy shelling between 11.30am and noon near junction Souville and Bouchot Trench with 5.9s and 4.2s HE and shrapnel.

Two men wounded.

19th February 1917

N34A to T.4A

At 8pm the Bn relieved the 5th Bn. Three Coys moved into the front line and one in support.

8am Work continued on Argonne, Bouchot and Marchal trenches. Thirty yards of revetting were carried out in Trench des Hures, Boyau 2 Bis. Activity occasional shelling Bouchot trench near junction Souville.

20th February 1917

Majority of the communication trenches in almost impassable condition, over knee deep in places. Left sector better. Carrying sent to dump for pump and duckboards. Commenced pumping Trench Martin.

Enemy heavily shelled vicinity of junction B Damloup and Trench Marchal with 5.9s between 9.30 & 10.30am also N33 D central occasionally. Two patrols sent out from the left and centre Coys reported that the ground was very soft and greasy, enemy sentries were thirty yards apart and that our wire in good condition.

Work on the trenches continued on the 21st, left Coy sector much improved, reconnoitred overland route to PC Hedevaux, wire and tape laid. The work of the centre and right Coys was delayed owing to having to clear trenches. Twenty-six trench boards were laid in Specel trench, four hand pumps were carried from Hedevaux to B Damloup. Our 18-pounder guns fired on enemy wire from 2pm until dusk. Two patrols from the centre and right Coys reconnoitred the enemy wire. A sap was discovered towards our lines finishing at T4A97. German wire extended from T4A91 to T4A83 and then to T4A85, and practically untouched Sap showed signs of heavy shelling two feet of water.
Enemy artillery shelled Annamites trench with 5.9s all day at retaliation, also Marchal trench junction with Danloup.

At 7.35pm and 8.30pm there was a short barrage on above trenches. Fish tails 40 fired in ravine 9pm and occasionally machine gun fire. Fish tails 40 fired Annamites trench.

22nd February 1917

The trenches were much improved with the continuing cleaning and pumping out. The communication trenches were still bad; laid six hundred yards of duckboard from N27C95 to N33B05 on the overland route. Twenty yards of Marchal trench were cleared and trench boards laid. Bridge erected over Trench Des Hures13 for overland route, twenty yards of Specel trench14 cleared and trench boards laid. From 1pm our Howitzers and 18-pounders were firing on the enemys’ wire.

Two patrols went out from right and centre Coys at midnight. ‘D’ Coy reported that while going along Sap T4A87, they had discovered a machine gun position at T4A83. Rifle grenades T4B28. Two rows French wire in front of our Specel trench and Couldur trench. One patrol from ‘B’ Coy left N34D11 enemy wire intact. Patrol worked fifty yards north wire very thick. Enemy listening post noted at N34D60, enemy post discovered at N34D93.

Enemy artillery was very quiet. Shelled and trench mortared Annamites trench occasionally at night. Machine gun fires on road N33D central. Enemy has two barrage lines 100 yards west of Annamites trench15, Marchal trench16 and Danloup17 trench.

On the 23rd work continued on clearing and pumping out the trenches, while two hundred more duckboards were laid on an overland track. The communication trenches were still waterlogged. Our Howitzers and 18-pounders on wire all day on enemy wire at points T4B04 N34D81/2 61/2 T4B16. Between midnight and 3am, five patrols were sent out and gaps ten yards wide were found in the wire at T4B04 and T4B16. The existence of sap T4A87 and a machine gun post at T4A83 were confirmed. Listening post suspected N34D60 and post at N34D73

Enemy artillery was quiet during the day but at 7.55pm enemy opened barrage on our front line, intense machine gun and trench mortar fire. Night very dark and communication with centre Coy was cut, they called for artillery retaliation in case of attack by enemy, by sending up an SOS which was repeated from headquarters. Our artillery opened barrage 30 seconds after SOS sent up and enemy fire soon died out about 8.20pm. Slight trench mortar activity during night also machine gun fire. One man killed and two wounded. (1 accidentally).

24th February 1917

Cleaning and draining work continued on all trenches, dugouts and posts in the sector. 95 duckboards laid on new track. Bridge built over trench N33D1.3. Our artillery continued to cut enemy wire at N34D8.6 with good results. Three patrols out report wire at T4B04 gap is ten yards wide, but wire 1’ high. Lamp signalling from Cyprus Road reported at 6.30pm.
Enemy attitude very active keen sniping many trench mortars and rifle grenades on Annamites trench, report little shelling except light barrage on Annamites trench at 8pm to 8.15pm
About thirty 5.9s about area N33, B33. One man wounded.

25th to 26th February 1917

On the 25th Divn HQ received the startling information that the enemy had begun to retire; he had evacuated Pys, north west of Le Sars, that morning. At night a further message stated that the British had occupied Pys, Irles and Serre. The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line had begun. The 50th Divn, however, was not desperate to follow up the enemy as he fell back to his well prepared defences in the Hindenburg Line, for it was after the Divn had been relieved early in March, that he evacuated his defences south of the Somme

6am to 6am Work on the trenches, posts and dugouts continued. Specel Crabe, Calmon and Marchal trenches where left Coy are now in good condition. Communication Trenches still bad in places. Patrolling all night done by Coys, enemy front line, held by sentry groups thirty yards apart, very nervous, occasional bursts of machine gun fire.

6.30pm to 7.30 enemy trench mortared Annamites trench retaliation by artillery silenced him again repeated at 5.30am, 26th Feb.

Enemy artillery very quiet, occasional field guns on Annamites and only four 5.9s. Three German aeroplanes seen over our lines, two returning towards Horny. Duckboard track, length done now from N27C54 to N33D64.

27th February 1917

28th February 1917

On the 1st of March Divn HQ reported that on the nights of the 6th, 7th, 8th of March, the 59th Divn would relieve the 50th Divn.

FOUCAUCOURT

Working party of eight groups consisting of one NCO and eight men each was provided by the Bn to erect wire entanglements for the support line. The 149th Bde was tasked with erecting a two-mile length. 2nd Lt Emery MF is in charge of this party. Coys reorganised and refitted in the morning and were inspected by the CO in the afternoon.

2nd March 1917

The same strength of working party was sent out for wiring. The remainder of the Bn commenced training, and had baths at Bos St Martin.

3rd March 1917

All ranks available in the Bn were equipped out with the small box respirator and passed through a gas chamber to test their respirators. The rest of the day was devoted to completing the equipment and clothing of the Bn. The wiring party consisting of the same number of NCOs and men was sent out again.

4th March 1917

The usual working party found – Bn. Church parade 10am. Brigadier General Ovens inspected the Bn in billets at 3pm. Operation orders issued 7pm for move on following day.

On the 5th March, the relief of the 50th Divn by the 59th Divn began and continued until the 9th. The 149th Bde at this time was based in the Warfusee area. At 9am on that day the Bn paraded in full marching order and marched the seven miles to Bayonvillers via the main Amiens road. Hut encampment was taken over and occupied at Bayonvillers. In the aft Coys inspections took place.

6th March 1917

BAYONVILLERS

Bn parade Arm drill and hair
Route marches. Afternoon - Coy inspections.

7th March 1917

Routine same as previous day – Afternoon devoted to attention of feet of ‘A’ & ‘B’. Coys Inspection and hot bathing treatment.

8th March 1917

The days routine was the same as on the 6th and 7th - Feet inspection and treatment for remainder of Bn operation orders for proceeding day issued.

On the 9th of March the Bn paraded at 8.45am in full marching order and marched the two miles to Warfusee Abancourt and took over billets of 7th SF, No 2 area being occupied. The camp was composed of huts was very incomplete. Material (RE) was indented for and work was commenced immediately on latrines and cookhouse sheds.

10th March 1917

11.30am

Training and early morning parades at Warfusee commenced. Bn parade and inspections were carried out after camp and equipment etc had been thoroughly cleaned. Close order drill practised. Afternoon - Coy inspection took place.

Brigadier General Rees DSO took command of the 149th Bde on this date.

11th March 1917

10.30am Church parade service. Coy inspections after parade service in Bde canteen. Bde recreational training scheme was put in practise from this date the inter-Coy football matches commencing.

12th March 1917

9.30am Bn parade. Organisation of Coys and platoons into sections of specialists commenced from this date. The whole morning was devoted to specialist training. - Coy inspections and recreational training took place in the afternoon. Gallows for bayonet fighting practise and competitions was commenced.

13th March 1917

The days routine was the same as on the 12th. Officers lecture at Bde canteen 6pm.

14th March 1917

Routine and training as on day previous.

15th March 1917

A large working party of 250 men was assembled at 9am for work in the village from 9am under the orders of the town major. Only Lewis gun instructions was able to be continued on this day.

Specialist training continued after Coy parades on the 16th. Recreational training took the form of platoon cross country running races and football.

On the 17th March the Divn received information that the enemy had begun to withdraw from his position opposite the III Corps front.

Specialist training continued during the morning as on previous days. Afternoon Coy inspections and football match – 1st round of the inter-battalion rounds took place, the 4th Bn playing the Army Service Corps.

18th March 1917

Coy inspections during morning.

2.15pm Church parade service in Bde canteen.

19th March 1917

9.30am Bn parade. Specialist Training continued except for one Coy, which did a practical scheme of platoon attack etc. Lecture by Brigadier General to Officers and NCOs of Bde at 5.30pm in Bde amusement hut.

Training continued on the 20th, two Coys doing general training and the two remaining Coys being out, one on a route march with practise of Artillery formation upon deployment; the other doing a practical open warfare scheme.

21st March 1917

Routine as on previous day, with two Coys on a short march and practising deployment and march discipline etc.

6pm Lecture by OC to officers and NCOs (senior) on practise of open order work and deployment.

Training and routine as on previous day with general training of the two Coys that were marching the previous day, the other two Coys going for a short march and practising deployment and march discipline etc.

6pm Lecture to officers and senior NCOs by Bde bombing officer on rifle grenade work in open warfare etc.

22nd March 1917

9.30am Bn parade and inspection by the GOC 50th Divn General Wilkinson. Field day followed, the Bn going out on a route march. Deploying and advancing from artillery formation.

2.30pm Coy inspections

6pm Lecture for officers and NCOs by Major Robb.

23rd March 1917

8.30 Bn parade – field day – an open order attack practised from the main Warfusee-Villers Carbonnel road to the south east side of Bore D’achiel, a position being taken up and consolidated on high ground overlooking Hamel.

Coy inspections were held at 2pm on the 24th. At 5pm Capt Dixon delivered a lecture to the officers and NCOs. ‘D’ Coy proceeded on a Coy training scheme, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys carried out general training. ‘A’ Coy and during the morning another Coys attended the baths at Warfusee.

On the 25th March orders from Fourth Army HQ instructed the Divn to concentrate in the Talmas- Villers Bocage- Molliens area by March 31st.

Coy inspections during the morning – Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist Church parade

Church of England parade service in Recreation Hut (Bde) at 2.15pm. Afternoon Bde cross country runs as teams under arrangement of Lt Stiles from the T.M.B.

6.15pm Lecture by CO to officers.

26th March 1917

The Divn Field day was cancelled due to the bad weather. Morning was spent in giving lectures in the huts and attending to interior economy. Daily inspections and clothing parade in the afternoon.

Two NCOs and 28 men sent as a working party to RTO Warfusee for unloading supplies.

27th March 1917

Field firing exercise carried out by the Bn in the morning between Hamel and Warfusee, unfortunately ‘Sammy’ the regimental pet was killed during the firing.

A working party of two NCOs and 28 men was provided by the Bn for RTO Warfusee for unloading supplies.

At 6pm Major W Robb MC lectured to all officers, Warrant Officers and Sgts on consolidation.

At 9.45am on the 28th the 149th Bde was inspected by the III Corps Cdr - Lt Gen Sir W.P Pulteney KCB, KCMG, DSO. The Bn marched past and then proceeded on a route march via Cerisy with practise of deployment.

At 7.30pm the Bn practised a night attack on the ground between Warfusse and Hamel

29th March 1917

9.30am The CO inspected all Coys in fighting order during the morning.

The Somme 1917 - Military Units

50th (Northumbrian) Division - Consisted of the 149th (Northumberland) Bde, 150th (York & Durham) Bde and 151st (Durham Light Infantry (DLI)) Bde.

The 149th Bde was comprised of the 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Bn - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 150th Bde was comprised 1/4th Bn - East Yorkshires, 1/4th Bn - Green Howards, 1/5th - Bn Green Howards and 1/5th Bn - Durham Light Infantry.

The 151st Bde was comprised the 1/6th, 1/8th, 1/9th Bn - DLI and 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn - Border Regt.

1st Northumbria Field Coy RE

179th Tunnelling Coy RE

446th Field Coy RE

59th Division - Consisted of the 176th, 177th and 178th Bde.

The 176th (2nd Staffordshire) Bde was comprised of the 2/5th and 2/6th Bn - South Staffordshire Regt. 2/5th and 2/6th Bn - North Staffordshire Regt

The 177th (2nd Lincolnshire and Leicestershire) Bde was of comprised 2/4th and 2/5th Bn - Lincolnshire Regt. 2/4th and 2/5th Bn - Leicestershire Regt.

The 178th (2nd Notts and Derby) Bde was comprised of the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Bn - Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regt).

Bibliography

Armentieres

The 4th Bn settled into the typical routine of life on the Western Front. Taking its turn with the other Bns of the 50th Division in the trenches to the east of Armentieres.

1st August 1915

The author has coloured this map for clarity

Trenches - black, roads and tracks - red. Watercourses - blue

Trenches east of Armentieres
Trenches east of Armentieres

Armentieres Casualties

For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this sector, select the link.

If would like to read the full story of the 4th NF in World War 1, then please select here

Chapter 1a – Origins

The Tynedale district today (www.tynedale.gov.uk) Introduction On the 20th of April 1915, eleven hundred men from the Tynedale district of Northumberland, embarked for the continent with the local volunteer battalion of the Northumberland…

You must be logged in to view the content of this Chapter.

Protected: Chapter 10a – Aisne

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below: Password:

You must be logged in to view the content of this Chapter.

The Lys

Summary of events

Captain J.S.J. Robson
Captain J.S.J. Robson

By the 8th of April the whole of the 50th Divn had move northwards from the Somme to the Merville area and new drafts of men had arrived to replace those lost during March on the Somme. On the 5th Capt Robson had returned with a draft of 250 men for the 4th Bn and on the 6th a further 102 arrived, described in the 4th Bn diary as of poor physique and all under the age of 19.

The 50th Divn were destined to relieve the Portuguese Divn in the front line east of Merville on the night of the 9/10th April. The 151st Bde were to be the first in the front line and in preparation for this had moved into billets in the town of Estaires 1. The 149th Bde were billeted north and west of Merville 2 with the 4th Bn centred on the village of Arrewage 3. During the morning of the 9th events led to the relief plans being rapidly amended.

Tuesday, 9th April 1918

At 4am the Germans opened up with a heavy bombardment of the line between Bethune 4 and Armentieres 5. The towns of Merville, Estaires and La Gorgue 6 were continually hit, reducing houses to rubble and the outbreak of fires was widespread. By 4.30am all communication with the Portuguese Divisional HQ by land line had been cut. The relief orders for the Portuguese were cancelled and the 151st Bde carried out a prearranged move to a series of defence posts south of the River Lys. Between 5 and 5.30am the 149th and 150th Bdes were ‘stood to’ and prepared to move forward at an hours notice. A forward 149th Bde HQ was established at the front, while the rear Bde HQ remained with the Divn (map ref: K29.a).

At 6am orders were issued to the engineers to prepare the River Lys bridges for demolition.

2ndLt Kipling
2ndLt Kipling

At 7.30am orders were issued for the 149th and 150th Bdes to move to an assembly point at Chapelle Duvelle 7 (map ref: L.26 Central) on the eastern side of Merville. 2nd Lt Kipling went in advance of the Bn to reconnoitre the route and ascertain that it was still possible to get the transport through Merville in view of the heavy shelling it had been subjected to.

The 4th Bn set off at 9.45am and fortunately, only sustained one casualty by the time it reached the outskirts of Merville. The Bn halted here to allow the 5th Bn to pass, then continued through the badly damaged streets of the town, noting that the bridges were still intact.

At 10am, 50th Divn HQ received reports that the Portuguese were under attack and by 11am it was confirmed that the enemy had broken through the lines of the entire Portuguese sector, and had then turned north and south to attack the flanks of the 40th and 55th Divns . The Portuguese retreated through the lines of the 151st Bde, having abandoned all their guns, therefore the position held by the 151st Bde was now the front line.

The 4th Bn reached the assembly point and received orders to take up concealed positions in nearby farms (map ref: L.30.d). The 151st Bde made contact with the enemy around 12 noon and from thereon were involved in fierce fighting during which they were steadily forced back to the Lys and Lawe rivers.

Meanwhile, at 1.15pm, 149th Bde HQ issued orders for the 5th and 6th Bns to move and occupy positions at Trou Bayard 8 (map ref: G.19.G), to the north of Estaires. The 4th Bn stayed where they were, but were placed under the direct orders of 50th Divn HQ. The Bn was not made aware of the dire situation on the front line until after the arrival of the cookers at 2pm and dinner had been served. The Bn was placed at the disposal of the 151st Bde and in accordance with instructions, marched towards the water tank in Estaires. On reaching the outskirts of Estaires, at 3pm Coys moved off the road and deployed in artillery formation, moving forward to take up position in local farms on the northern side of Estaires (map ref: L.23.d) to await battle orders. Under 151st Bde instructions, 'D' Coy were dispatched to guard the railway at Beaupre. Bn HQ was established at a farm (map ref: L.23.d.6.3) and 'A', 'B' and 'C' Coys dug in near strong points, in the vicinity of the water tank. The Bn was in position by 5pm.

Meanwhile 149th Bde HQ was established at 2.30pm alongside 150th Bde HQ at Pont de Poivre 9. During the afternoon the 150th Bde had been taking up defensive positions on the northern bank of the River Lys to the east of Estaires and as far northeast as Sailly. An enemy column, advancing from the south, reached the River Lys near Nouveau Monde 10 around 3pm and was soon firing on the northern bank with machine guns.

At 3.15pm the 5th and 6th Bns NF were in position to provide support for the 150th Bde, with orders to counterattack any part of the front line that may be breached. The line of the rivers Lys and Lawe was to be held at all costs.

2nd Lt A.N. Lawson
2nd Lt A.N. Lawson

At 3.45pm the GOC 150th Bde received a message from Divn HQ stating that the 4th Bde was also moving up to provide support, with orders to counterattack immediately if the enemy should succeed in crossing the river. The Bn arrived and at 5.15pm were immediately placed under the command of Lt Col G.O. Spence (5th DLI (150th Bde)) who coordinating the River Lys defences.

Sgt Thompson with a patrol of fifty men was dispatched to reconnoitre Pont De La Meuse 11 and to establish contact with elements of the 5th DLI who were holding the bridgehead. 2nd Lt Lawson and a patrol of ….. left to reconnoitre Pont Levis 12 and make contact with the 5th DLI at that location. Capt J.V. Gregory (OC 4th Bn) arranged with Lt Col. Spence to send one platoon to map reference L 29a.O.4. The platoon duly moved off and joined Sgt Thompson and his men who were already at that spot.

Lt W.H. Nicholson
Lt W.H. Nicholson

The remainder of ‘A’ Coy under Lt Nicholson went forward to hold the house on the near side river bank between Pont de la Meuse and Pont Levis.

At 6pm the 6th Bn was ordered to move (map ref: G.15.c) northeast in order to protect the left flank of 150th Bde by patrolling the line of stream running from the north into the Lys (map ref: G.10.b), in case the enemy crossed the river at Bac St Mur 13.

Sgt Wigham led a platoon and two Lewis guns over Pont Levis and reported to the 5th DLI (map ref: G.25.a.8.2).

Captain J.C Gregory
Captain J.C Gregory

Then, under the command of 2nd Lt Lawson, they set up a defensive position on the far bank covering the bridge approaches.

2nd Lt Lawson, who had just rejoined the Bn after from leave, was wounded near Pont Levis and left behind (he was in fact captured by the enemy and made a good recovery from severe wounds in a German hospital).

Around 7pm, Maj. Gen. Jackson ordered the 151st Bde to withdraw to the northern bank of the Lys and the engineers to destroy the Lys bridges, “because the enemy had brought its field guns forward and was systematically smashing up the bridgehead garrisons at point blank range” (). The main bridge at Estaires (Pont de la Meuse?) was successfully blown up, but Pont Levis survived (detonator wires believed to have been cut by shellfire).

At 9.10pm the 5th Bn was ordered to take up a position in strong points near Trou Bayard (map ref: G.19.b) and connect up with the 4th Bn.

At 11.45pm 149th Bde HQ received a message from the 150th Bde stating that the enemy held the Bac St Mur to Croix de Bac road (north and east of Sailly). The enemy was reported to have crossed the canal further north but no definite information was obtained regarding this. The remainder of the night was quite for the Bn and rations were received and distributed to Coys.

For the 50th Divn the first day fighting in the Battle of Estaires was over. The original British line from Givenchy to Bois Grenier had collapsed, and when darkness fell ran roughly Festubert, Le Touret, Le Cason, Vielle Chapelle, Pont Rigneul and round the north of Lestrem. From here the 50th Divn held the northwestern bank of the Lawe and Lys rivers through La Gorgue, passing east of Estaires and on to the west of Sailly aur la Lys. The line then continued to Croix du Bac, north of Fleurbaix and on to just north of Bois Grenier. A big dent on a ten mile front.

Estaires Map

Wednesday, 10th April 1918

At 1.55am, orders were issued for a realignment of the Divn front. These orders, received at 151st Bde HQ at 3.30am, stated that the line was to be realigned before dawn, with the 51st Divn side stepping west and relieving the 8th DLI up to and including Lestrem Bridge 14, the 149th Bde would take over defences currently held by the 5th DLI. This was to be from Pont Levis (incl) to the Lys, opposite Rue de la Lys 15, with one Bn in the front line and two held in reserve. The relief of the 5th DLI was to be carried out by a portion of the 4th Bn, with the remainder of the Bn returning to the command of the 149th Bde. So by dawn the 150th Bde was on the left flank of the Bde front, the 149th in the middle and 151st on the right.

2nd Lt C.M. Davison
2nd Lt C.M. Davison

Due to a misunderstanding between the 149th and 150th Bdes, Pont Levis was left unguarded during the night, however, at 5.40am the 4th Bn was ordered to send two platoons to take up a position at the bridge alongside the 5th DLI (may have been 5th Bn NF). Capt Robson set out with two platoons from ‘C’ Coy at 6.30am to try and strengthen the defences at the bridge, but by this time fighting had recommenced. They were immediately held up by heavy machine gun fire on open ground and Capt Robson was wounded. Another attempt at reinforcement was made by a third platoon from 'C' Coy.

Again enemy machine gun fire prevented this and 2nd Lt Davison (accompanying the CO and 2nd Lt Essex) was wounded whilst reconnoitring the position. Despite tough resistance put up by the 5th Bn, elements of the German 35th Divn finally forced their way across Pont Levis around 7.30am.

Captain W.B.F. Essex
Captain W.B.F. Essex

Meanwhile the rest of the Bn had been ordered to redeploy to Ferme Quennelle 16 and returned to the command of the 149th Bde. The move was supposed to have been completed before dawn, but the Bn did not receive the order until it was light. Bn HQ and ‘B’ Coy were held up on the way, so HQ had to be established at map ref L.19.b.3.4, with the revised position notified to Bde HQs.

‘B’ Coy occupied a position at Pont De Poivre (Harlech Strong Point) 17 and made contact with a Coy from the 6th Bn, commanded by Capt Stafford. They were entrenched 100 yards to the rear of Harlech on the opposite side of the Trou Bayard Road. ‘B’ Coy immediately threw out a screen in front that reported the enemy were endeavouring to push machine guns towards them.

Having crossed Pont Levis, Ferme Quennell fell to the enemy as they forced their way into the south eastern part of Estaires and captured some of the houses on the north side of the main street.

Under very difficult circumstances the Bn was reorganised near the Trou Bayard Road, linking up with Bns on either flank.

C.S.M. E.G. Osborne
C.S.M. E.G. Osborne

Bn HQ were informed at 7.30am that the right flank of 'C' Coy was ‘in the air’ and that they were unable to re-establish a link due the number of casualties they had suffered. Sgt Major Osborne took a platoon from ‘B’ Coy to protect the right flank of ‘C’ Coy and eventually succeeded in establishing a line connecting ‘A’ & ‘C’ Coys, taking a few casualties in the process.

At 9.30am the defensive line was reported continuous and the 6th Bn were ordered to counterattack towards Pont Levis to drive the enemy out of Estaires. They passed through the ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coy lines and succeeded in driving the enemy back to the church in Estaires and Pont Levis, but were threatened on the left flank and brought to a standstill.

There were two or three factories near the river which the 6th Bn were able to use to pour machine gun fire on the bridge approaches. Nevertheless, the enemy continued to pour across the bridge and work their way through the houses, gardens and cemetery on the northern side of Estaires, as well head northeast and to the west.

2nd t H.E. Bull
2nd t H.E. Bull

Two platoons from ‘B’ Coy, commanded by 2nd Lt Bull, were ordered to advance in the direction of Pont Levis and report to Major Temperley (OC 6th Bn), but they were subjected to severe machine gun fire on open ground and were held up before reaching their objective, suffering many casualties in the process. Major Temperley informed them that they were no longer required, so those that were left returned to ‘B’ Coy and manned Harlech Strong Point.

By 10.45am Bn HQ had dug in, to the rear of the 5th Bn position. ‘D’ Coy returned from guarding the railway at Beaupre during the morning and was instructed to dig into the rear of the Bn HQ position. For the next few hours it was relatively quiet, although needless to say the Germans continued to strengthen their bridgehead.

A heavy enemy bombardment and attack commenced around 4pm, forcing the 5th Bn to withdraw and leaving the left flank of the 4th Bn exposed. ‘D’ Coy were sent to cover the left flank, reporting themselves ‘well dug in’ between the crossroads at Trou Bayard and Cul De Sac Farm 18, although taking a few casualties in the process.

'A' Coy of the 5th Bn at 'Harlech Strong Point' came under the orders of the OC 4th Bn and two platoons were placed to link up the left Bn and ‘D’ Coy. OC ‘B’ Coy reported that the enemy was moving forward his machine guns slowly and endeavouring to bring enfilade fire on all the strong points at 'Harlech'. The enemy was unable to do this before nightfall and remained in the positions he arrived at. As soon as it was dark ‘A’ Coy of the 5th Bn exchanged places with 'D' Coy thus bringing the Bn together and simplifying the organisation.

Thursday, 11th April 1918

At midnight orders were received stating that 'A' Coy of the 5th NF would be relieved by a Coy from the 4th East Yorks, who would take up a position at map ref: L.23.d.6.3. ''D Coy formed up on their left and the remainder of 'C' Coy withdrew to the rear of Harlech strong point, the position just vacated by 'D' Coy . Bn HQ moved back to a new position which was consolidated before dawn.

By 2am the 149th held a line running from the Estaires - Neuf Berquin road to just west of Trou Bayard. The 5th Bn held the right sector, the 4th the left sector and the 6th were held in reserve. When dawn broke on the 11th, the 151st Bde were on the right flank, the 149th in the centre and 150th on the left. At 7am the enemy was reported to have occupied Trou Bayard.

By 10am 'D' Coy on the left and 'B' Coy were holding their positions against repeated attacks supported by heavy trench mortar and machine gun fire. However, the Bn right flank was now exposed because the 5th DLI (151st Bde) had been forced back, the enemy were heading for Neuf Berquin and the 5th Bn NF had been withdrawn. Harlech Strong Point was very heavily shelled at point blank range from the river at Estaires and was subjected to a considerable amount of gas. The 6th Bn was brought forward to try and re-establish a line, but they were unable to progress very far, so by 2pm the line was gradually being forced back. The Bde maintained contact with the 29th Divn on the left flank, but the right flank was now very exposed.

The Bn war diary indicates that at 2pm "a general withdrawal, necessitated the removal of Battn Hdqrs to a farm at L.10.b.9.6. The afternoon and evening were spent in the collection of stragglers, the reconstruction of the line for defence. The withdrawal was made through the 29th Div who were dug in, in our rear, and & became necessary owing to the withdrawals of the right & left flanks”. Unfortunately, the withdrawal was not communicated to the Coys on the Bn flanks, consequently they only became aware of the situation when they realised the enemy was outflanking them. The Bn was given instructions to dig in alongside the 29th Divn, however, when the 6th NF with two coys moved forward to counterattack the 4th NF moved forward with them. This position appears to have been held for the rest of the day. However, at a conference between Brigadiers that night, a decision was taken to fall back to a new line.

Meanwhile that evening, the enemy on the right flank had entered Merville.

Friday, 12th April 1918

The withdrawal began at 2.30am and by dawn the 149th Bde had vacated its positions at L10b (sheet 36 .. NE) and was on the march to new positions running from the village of Vierhouck (incl) to the crossroads on the Neuf Berquin-Vieux Berquin road (map ref: K.11d.7.8. to L.13.b.16), just south of Pont Rondin. The 4th and 5th Bns under the command of Lt Col Irwin, provided the flank and advanced guards. They were followed by the 6th Bn and a few from the 4th Bn, under the command of Major Temperley, and then the reinforcement Bn under OC Corps Troops.

Information was received that the enemy had machine guns in Neuf Berquin and was firing down the road towards La Couronne. A party from the 4th Bn was sent out before dawn to engage these machine guns, but they were unable to acquire a position of vantage until nearly daylight and were then unable to move forward.

By 6.30am the 149th Bde was reported to have crossed the Neuf Berquin-Vieux Berquin road, encountering light opposition and a half hour later, the 6th Bn had occupied Vierhouck 19, and were forming a defensive flank along the road leading to Pont Rondin 20, their new line running from south of the village round the western edge (map ref; K.12c). The reinforcement and 5th Bn stretching to the Neuf Berquin-Vieux Berquin road. The 4th Bn dug in behind to provide support, at map ref K.12.d.

“The official despatches record that: "At about 8am the enemy attacked in great strength on a front extending from south of the Estaires - Neuf Berquin neighbourhood. After very heavy fighting ... he succeeded in the afternoon in overcoming the resistance of our troops about Doulieu and La Becque, forcing them back in a north-westerly direction.”

Due to the failure of the 1st Bn KOSB to link up on the left flank, the 149th Bde was forced to withdraw at 9.30am and take up a position in conjunction with the Guards Bde, who during the night had dug in behind them (map ref: K.12.b and L.7a). At 10.30am, the Guards on the right flank counterattacked the enemy in Neuf Berquin, but were forced to withdraw to their original line. Heavy fighting continued all day and at nightfall (6pm) the relief of the 149th Bde began. The 4th Bn were relieved by the Guards Bde and withdrew to Vieux Berquin where orders were received to march to the transport lines at La Tir Anglais 21 and rest for the night. By this time the 1st Australian Divn were beginning to arrive and were taking up positions in front of the Bois Deval 22 between K 7 b (map ref: 36a N E) and La Couronne.

13th - 16th April 1918

After this much needed respite, the Bn marched to billets in abandoned farms just behind the line and allowed as much sleep as they could get. They had been relieved from actual front line fighting, but along with the rest of Bde were lent to the 5th Divn and set to work digging a defence line through the Bois de Vaches 23. Although returning to billets on the conclusion of work every day, they were under orders to move at ten minutes notice and occupy the defence line if the enemy launched an attack on the Bois de Nieppe 24. These were comparatively quiet days and casualties were few, although there was a certain amount of shelling, particularly from one gun, nicknamed the ‘Silent One’. Its heavy calibre shells arrived before any warning screech was heard, probably due to high velocity.

Bibliography

149th Bde War Diary

4th Bn War Diary

More than 70 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were killed in action or died of wounds during the Battle of the Lys. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in the Lys Offensive, select the link.

Extract from:

When the Lantern of Hope Burned Low

“Let me here pay my personal tribute to the Ambulance personnel of the Battalion. The conduct of the stretcher bearers was superb. Roads were shelled and swept by machine gun fire alternately. Two or three squads were knocked out – one whilst carrying Lieut Stiles of the Trench Mortar Battery – but, driven off the roads, the indomitable SB’s carried their wounded comrades across the fields, over ditches, sometimes more than two miles. The Regimental Aid Post was hit by a shell when crowded to the doors with stretcher cases from our own and a neighbouring Division. Yet Capt Grierson went about his work of mercy unresting, unhasting, a fine example to all”. 

The Lys - Military Units

1st (Australian) Division - Consisted of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Bdes

The 1st (Australian) Bde - Comprised of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Bns.

The 2nd (Australian) Bde - Comprised of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Bns.

The 3rd (Australian) Bde - Comprised of the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Bns.

29th Division - Consisted of the 86th, 87th & 88th Bdes

The 86th Bde - Comprised of the 2nd Bn - Royal Fusiliers, 1st Bn - Lancashire Fusiliers and 1st Bn - Royal Guernsey Light Infantry.

The 87th Bde - Comprised of the 2nd Bn - South Wales Borderers, 1st Bn - King’s Own Scottish Borderers and 1st Bn - Border Regt.

The 88th Bde - Comprised of the 4th Bn - Worcestershire Regt, 2nd Bn - Hampshire Regt and 1st Bn - Newfoundland Regt.

31st Division - Consisted of the 4th Guards Bde, 92nd and 93rd Bdes.

The 4th (Guards) Bde - Comprised of the 4th Bn - Grenadier Guards, 3rd Bn - Coldstream Guards and 2nd Bn - Irish Guards.

The 92nd Bde - 10th & 11th Bn - East Yorkshire Regt, 11th Bn - East Lancashire Regt.

The 93rd Bde - 15/17th & 18th Bn West Yorkshire Regt, 13th Bn - York and Lancaster Regt.

40th Division - Consisted of the 119th, 120th & 121st Bdes.

The 119th Bde - Comprised of the 13th Bn - East Surrey Regt, 18th Bn - Welsh Regt. 21st Bn - Middlesex Regt.

The 120th Bde - Comprised of the 2nd Bn - Royal Scots Fusiliers, 10/11th Bn & 14th Bn - Highland Light Infantry.

The 121st Bde - Comprised of the 12th Bn - Suffolk Regt, 13th Bn - Yorkshire Regt. 20th Bn - Middlesex Regt.

50th (Northumbrian) Division Consisted of the 149th, 150th & 151st Bdes.

The 149th (Northumberland) Bde comprised of the 1/4th, 1/5th & 1/6th Bn - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 150th (York & Durham) Bde - Comprised of 1/4th Bn - East Yorkshire Regt, 1/4th and 1/5th Bn - Green Howards.

The 151st (Durham Light Infantry) Bde - 1/5th, 1/6th and 8th Bn - DLI.

51st Division - Comprised of the 152nd, 153rd and 154th Infantry Brigades.

The 152nd Bde 1/5th and 1/6th Bn - Seaforth Highlanders, 1/6th Bn - Gordon Highlanders.

The 153rd Bde 1/6th and 1/7th Bn - Black Watch, 1/7th Bn - Gordon Highlanders.

The 154th Bde 1/4th Bn - Seaforth Highlanders, 1/4th Bn - Gordon Highlanders, and 1/7th Bn - Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

55th Division - Consisted of the 164th, 165th and 166th Bdes.

The 164th Bde - Comprised of the 1/4th Bn - King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regt), 2/5th Bn - Lancashire Fusiliers and 1/4th - Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regt.

The 165th Bde - 1/5th, 1/6th & 1/7th Bn - King’s (Liverpool) Regt.

The 166th Bde - 1/5th Bn King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regt), 1/10th Bn - King’s (Liverpool) Regt and 1/5th Bn - South Lancashire Regt.

Related websites

Cecil Slack & the Great War - www.greatwar.eril.net/diary.htm - Diaries of an officer in the 4th Bn East Yorkshire Regt (150th Bde) during the Battle of the Lys.

http://www.estaires.com This a website devoted to the modern day city of Estaires and includes many aerial photographs of the locations described in the text above.

Bibliography

 

 

If would like to read the full story of the 4th NF in World War 1, then please select here

.

.

Sanctuary Wood, Maple Copse

12th Feb 1916

That night the Bn relieved the 9th Bn DLI in the Sanctuary Wood trenches. Relief went quite quietly. At 8am on the 13th the enemy began shelling Hooge Ridge1, just to the left of the Bn. The bombardment continued all day with the Germans firing an estimated six thousand shells. Sanctuary Wood was on the receiving end of some of them and a few fusiliers from the 4th Bn wounded. The night passed off fairly quietly. During the morning of the 14th there was only little activity. In the afternoon the enemy shelled Hooge Ridge again and late in the afternoon attacked opposite the Rifle Bde positions but were beaten back. A good amount of stuff was thrown over the 4th Bn trenches, killing four men and wounding about 13 or 14. On the right flank, opposite the 17th Divn, the enemy in the afternoon bombarded very heavily and attacked taking a few of our trenches. Our Bn transport was shelled while returning through Kruisstraat2, one Cpl was killed and two men wounded. Just before 3.30pm on the 14th the enemy opened up with a heavy bombardment on the Hooge trenches, held by the 24th Divn, on the immediate left flank of the 50th Divn. At 3.30pm shelling of trenches 37, 38 and 39 (opposite Hill 60 and astride the railway) and the area to the rear held by the 150th Bde. The 149th Bde had the 7th Bn on the right and the 4th on the left, the 6th Bn in close support and the 5th in Bde reserve. The 149th Bde, however, seem to escape the very heavy bombardment to which units on their right and left were subjected; ''The whole of the day the trenches immediately to our right and left came in for a very heavy and, at times, intense bombardment, and it was apparent that the enemy intended to put in an attack at some point or other''. All the approaches up from Kruistraat were shelled with 'whizz-bangs'3 and HE, and the Bde Office at Zillebeke4 dugouts was blown in and a good deal of material destroyed.The bombardment continued until 5pm.

15th Feb 1916

The night was disturbed and at 4.30am a counterattack was made on the lost trenches but failed. The whole of the day was rather disturbed; the enemy shelled Hooge Ridge and round about, but nothing further happened. On the 14th there was an attack on the left flank, during which some of the enemys’ bombers were opposite our trenches, but they were spotted and dispersed. During the night two rifles, two grenades and the belongings of one of them who was shot were safely recovered to the trenches. The information gained turned out to be of great value to GHQ. At 8pm another counterattack was made on the lost trenches and met with partial success.

16th Feb 1916

The whole of the day was quiet on both sides. In the evening the Bn was relieved from the front line by the 6th Bn and moved into close support redoubts. HQ went to Maple Copse5. Capt JR Robb and 2nd Lt Scaife returned from leave and no officers being due, all leave went to men.

Maple Copse

17th - 20th Feb

Nothing much to record during these four days. The Bn supplied seven working parties, each night and lay in support during the daytime. On the night of the 20th we came up to trenches again and took over from the 6th Bn. Owing to the low strength of the Bn, the 7th Bn take control of the right hand trench, relieving the pressure greatly.

21st Feb 1916

In trenches at Sanctuary Wood. A good deal of snow on the ground, but artillery less active on both sides

22nd - 24th Feb 1916

All these three days passed quietly, and there were no casualties

Sanctuary, Square & Armagh Wood - Military Units

17th Division - Comprised of the 50th, 51st and 52nd Bdes

The 50th Bde. Comprised of the 10th Bn - West Yorkshire Regt, 7th Bn - East Yorkshire Regt, 7th Bn - Yorkshire Regt, 6th Bn - Dorsetshire Regt.

The 51st Bde. Comprised of the 7th Bn - Lincolnshire Regt, 7th Bn - Border Regt, 8th Bn - South Staffordshire Regt, 10th Bn - Sherwood Foresters.

The 52nd Bde. Comprised of the 9th Bn - Northumberland Fusiliers, 10th Bn - Lancashire Fusiliers, 9th Bn - Duke of Wellington’s Regt, 12th Bn - Manchester Regt

24th Division - Comprised of the 17th, 72nd and 73rd Infantry Bdes

The 17th Bde. Comprised of the 8th Bn - Buffs, 1st Bn - Royal Fusiliers, 12th Bn - Royal Fusiliers, 3rd Bn - Rifle Brigade.

The 72nd Bde. Comprised of the 8th Bn - Queen’s, 9th Bn - East Surrey Regt, 8th Bn - Queen’s Own and 1st Bn - North Staffordshire Regt.

The 73rd Bde. Comprised of the 9th Bn - Royal Sussex Regt, 7th Bn - Northamptonshire Regt, 13th Bn - Middlesex Regt, 2nd Bn - Leinster Regt.

50th (Northumbrian) Territorial Division - Comprised of the 149th, 150th and 151st Infantry Brigades.

The 149th (Northumbrian) Bde - Comprised of 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Bns - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 150th (York & Durham) Bde - Comprised of 1/4th Bn - East Yorkshire Regt - , 1/4th & 1/5th Bn - Green Howards and 1/5th Bn - Durham Light Infantry.

The 151st (Durham Light Infantry) Bde - Comprised of 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn - Border Regt, 1/6th, 1/8th and 1/9th Bn - DLI.

1st Canadian Division - Comprised of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Bdes.

The 1st Canadian Bde. Comprised of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Bns Canadian Infantry.

The 2nd Canadian Bde. Comprised of the 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th Canadian Infantry.

The 3rd Canadian Bde. Comprised of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Bns Canadian Infantry.

If would like to read the full story of the 4th NF in World War 1, then please select here

.

.

Battle of Rosieres

26th March 1918

149th Bde in position. The order of battle from Estrees 1 to a point 1000 yards north of Assevillers 2 was 5th DLI, 7th DLI, 4th NF, 6th NF with the 5th NF held in reserve on the Assevillers-Fay road under the command of the GOC 149th Bde.

The morning of the 26th the enemy attacked again in strength, south-west and west from Nesle 3, no doubt with the intention of separating the French and British Armies and interfering with the detraining arrangements of the former by the capture of Montdidier 4.

To the left of the 149th Bde the 66th Divn were attacked and fell back under pressure leaving the left flank exposed. Two Coys from the 5th Bn counterattacked and restored the situation, but the 66th Bde continued to retire. With their northern flank exposed the 149th Bde retired to the Rosieres – Vauvillers line.

The 149th Bde, 5th and 7th Bn DLI retired under orders at 10am to the line Rosieres-Vauvillers. The 4th Bn withdrew through Fay and (2pm) Foucaucourt 5, to Herbevillers 6 and occupied posts around village of Vauvillers 7.

At 4pm the Bn made a successful counterattack at Framerville 8 and with the exception of the eastern end drove the enemy out of the village, but withdrew to Vauvillers posts at midnight.

27th March 1918

When dawn broke the 149th Bde occupied a line from Rosieres (excl) with men of the 5th DLI in support.

The enemy attacked the Rosieres line at about 8am. On the left and in the centre they were driven off, but on the right a Labour Coy fell back until a counter attack restored the situation.

Meanwhile the 50th Divn had practically been reduced to the 149th Bde which was holding four thousand yards of line between the 66th and 8th Divns. The retirements north of it had led to a warning order for a withdrawal being issued, but this had been misinterpreted by the Bns in the line, which at about 1pm began to fall back, abandoning Vauvillers near the junction with the 66th Divn. The position at Vauvillers was held until noon, at which time they withdrew because the troops on both flanks had retired.

At 12 noon an attack developed along the whole of the front line held by the 8th, 50th, 66th and 39th Divns. The 66th Divn retired at 1pm, followed by the 5th Bn NF at 2pm.

The 8th Divn, which had at once formed a defensive flank, attacked on the right while on the left the 7th (Pioneer) Bn DLI and 22nd Entrenching Bn, with some 66th Divn reserves, went forward.

About 3pm, these troops, well supported by artillery, were under way, and struck the enemy, who was advancing in eight or ten waves. They drove the foremost waves back and re-established the 50th Divn line, recapturing Vauvilliers.

At 3pm Brigadier-General Riddell lead the Bde in the counterattack by all available troops, including details from Bde HQ, which drove the enemy back from Harbonniers 9 over our old line except that we did not retake Vauvillers although the 4th Bn held the western half of the village. Very heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy and two machine guns and 50 prisoners taken.

The success was only temporary, for the Germans attacked once more and, when the defenders ammunition began to run short, broke in south of the village and enfiladed the line, causing another retirement.

7pm the line withdrew to the light railway between Rosieres station and crossroads half mile east.

They were halted on the light railway that ran diagonally behind the position. The enemy was already taking advantage of the gap that had been left, consequently a counterattack was organised from both flanks.

So by the evening the counter-attacking troops and the 50th Divn were back again on the light railway east of Harbonnieres.

At 8pm the enemy made another determined attack, advancing in no less than twelve waves, but was repulsed again.

That night (27th-28th) the allied line, south of the Somme, ran from Mesnil-St-Georges (west of Montdidier) to Hamel via Boussicourt, Arvillers, Warvillers, Rosieres and Harbonnieres.

More than 17 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were killed in action or died of wounds during the actions at Rosieres. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained at Rosieres, select the link.

Bibliography

 

Rosieres - Military Units

8th Division - Consisted of the 23rd, 24th and 25th Bdes.

The 23rd Bde Comprised of the 2nd Bn - Devonshire Regt, 2nd Bn - West Yorkshire Regt and 2nd Bn Middlesex Regt.

The 24th Bde Comprised of the 1st Bn - Worcestershire Regt, 1st Bn - Sherwood Foresters and 2nd Bn - Northamptonshire Regt.

The 25th Bde 2nd Bn - East Lancashire Regt, 2nd Bn - Royal Berkshire Regt and 2nd Bn Rifle Brigade

22nd Entrenching Bn

39th Division - Consisted of the 116th, 117th and 118th Bdes.

The 116th Bde - Comprised of the 11th & 13th Bns - Royal Sussex Regt and 1/1st Bn - Hertfordshire Regt

The 117th Bde - Comprised of the 16th Bn - Sherwood Foresters, 17th Bn - King’s Royal Rifle Corps and 16th Bn - Rifle Brigade.

The 118th Bde - Comprised of the 1/6th Bn - Cheshire Regt, 4/5th Bn - Black Watch and 1st Bn - Cambridgeshire Regt.

50th (Northumbrian) Division Consisted of the 149th (Northumberland) Bde, 150th (York & Durham) Bde and 151st (Durham Light Infantry (DLI)) Bde

The 149th (Northumberland) Bde - Comprised of the 1/4th, 1/5th & 1/6th Bns - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 150th (York & Durham) Bde - Comprised of 1/4th Bn - East Yorkshire Regt, 1/4th & 1/5th Bns - Green Howards.

The 151st (Durham Light Infantry) Bde - - 1/5th, 1/6th and 8th Bn - DLI

66th Division - Consisted of the 197th, 198th and 199th Bdes.

The 197th Bde - Comprised of the 1/6th, 2/7th & 2/8th Bns - Lancashire Fusiliers.

The 198th Bde - Comprised of the 1/4th & 2/5th Bns - East Lancashire Regt and 1/9th Bn - Manchester Regt.

The 199th Bde - Comprised of the 2/5th, 2/6th & 2/7th Bns - Manchester Regt.

If would like to read the full story of the 4th NF in World War 1, then please select here

Chapter 2a – St Julien

Lt Col Alfred James Foster Context Within six weeks of the British mobilisation, the German Army had fought their way to within thirty miles of Paris before being checked at the Battle of…

You must be logged in to view the content of this Chapter.

Chapter 3a – Armentieres

Historical Context - the “City of the Linen”. By the turn of the century Armentières, in the Artois region of Northern France, was an important centre of textile, printing, dyeing and brewing industries. It…

You must be logged in to view the content of this Chapter.