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Chapter 3b – Back in the Salient

Hill 60 Advanced parties set off for the rest billets, to the rear of the Hill 60 lines, in the new area on Wednesday the 15th of December. Over the following two days the 5th…

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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).

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‘G’ (Newburn) Company

Shooting Team (Possibly 'G' Company}
Shooting Team (Possibly 'G' Company}

'Service' Battalion

'G' Coy

'G' Company (Newburn) notes:

HQ -

Coy transferred from 5th Bn - 31st Oct 1910

The 4th Bn adopted a four Coy system during January 1915. 'G' Coy amalgamating with 'B' Coy.

Lt Geraint Lindsey Hunting
Lt Geraint Lindsey Hunting

Officer Commanding: Lt Geraint Lindsey Hunting

Gerald was the grandson of Charles Hunting, a wealthy Victorian businessman who had made a fortune from the coal industry. Around 1870 he turned his attention to shipping and bought stock in several ship owning companies and started the first Hunting Company in 1874. A few years later, he bought his son, Charles Samuel Hunting (1855-1921), a pair of second-hand sailing ships as a 21st birthday present. By 1889 Charles Senior had entered the oil industry and Hunting and Son had around a dozen general cargo steamships which were supplemented by an order for its first oil tanker, the 5,000dwt Duffield, one of the first oil tankers ever to be built.

After his death, his second son (Charles Samuel) took control of the business and expanded the shipping activities. The family resided at 11 Akenside Terrace, Jesmond in 1881 , Deepdene House, Jesmond Dene in 1891 and Westminster, London in 1901. However, in 1911 the Huntings purchased Bog Hall Farm near the village of Slaley and built Slaley Hall on the site, in a style typical of sporting estates in northern England and Scotland at the time. Construction of Slaley Hall began in 1912. and it was completed in 1914. The hall remained with the Hunting family until the death of Charles Hunting, at which point it was bought by Major Priestman.

The Hunting shippimg fleet was pressed into military service during WW1 and was reduced to just four ships by the end of the war. Charles Samuel Hunting died in 1921 but his two sons Percy and Gerald Lindsay rebuilt and expanded the business. They chose to concentrate on the oil trade and ordered a series of new motor driven tankers. To consolidate the move, they decided to relocate the Hunting's HQ down to London, in 1925, and simultaneously to absorb the shipbroking business of E.A. Gibson. (Gibson, n.d.) Determined to rebuild the fleet, Percy as "governing partner" also diversified the business by taking the company into aircraft servicing and manufacturing, and some years later the ‘Hunting Clan’ airline business. With time the Hunting name became synonymous with a range of military and civil aircraft including the Jet Provost and in its nascent days the aircraft that would become one of Britain's most sucessful best export sellers, the BAC 1-11.

Gerald died in 1966, aged 75, was a successful amateur batsman for Northumberland before and after the First World War. In the Loretto XI he headed the batting averages in 1910 and 1911. (Wisden Almanac)
http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/228443.html

2nd Lt Robert Allen
2nd Lt Robert Allen

2nd Lt Robert Allen

Born 1890 and living in Bellingham (1901 Census).
Father a grocer, shopkeeper and county court bailiff.

He died in 1962

2nd Lt Norton Butler Napier Good
2nd Lt Norton Butler Napier Good

2nd Lt Norton Butler Napier Good

Assumed command of the Bn Machine Gun Section prior to going to the Front.

Col Sgt Luke Stuart
Col Sgt Luke Stuart

Col Sgt Luke Stuart

Luke had served with the Northumberland Fusiliers at the battle of Omdurman in 1898.

Sgt H Jarvis (Permanent Staff)

'Reserve' Battalion (2/4th)

'G' Coy

'G' Company notes:

The 2/4th battalion became part of the newly formed 188th Bde, 63rd Divn during January 1915. The 63rd Divn was tasked with home defence, but was disbanded in Jul 1916. The 2/4th joined the 217th Bde, 72nd Division, but continued with home defence duties. The 72nd Divn was broken up Jan - Apr 1918

Officer Commanding:

Capt.

Captain Thomas William Gregory
Captain Thomas William Gregory

2nd Lt Thomas William Gregory

Thomas was the son of Elswick grocer William M Gregory (b.1866) (3&4 Studley Terrace, Elswick) mother Ann E Gregory (b.1865), daughter Mary E (b.1891), Violetta (b.1892), Thomas W (b.1895), James H (b.1900).

2nd Lt James Michael Jeslyn Spencer
2nd Lt James Michael Jeslyn Spencer

2nd Lt James Michael Jeslyn Spencer

James was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Elias Evans Spencer of Walbottle Hall, Newburn, Northumberland. James was born in Oct 1895 and educated at Alnmouth and Clifton College and was about to enter King's College, Cambridge, when war broke out. He enlisted as a gunner in the Northumberland Artillery, then obtained a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers, receiving his second star in 1915. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in July 1916, and went to the Front in September. Flight - 14 Dec 1916 (www.flightglobal.com)

The Spencer family were early industrialists who changed the face of Newburn. The first John Spencer established a mill for the manufacture of files at the beginning of the 19th century. At the end of the century his son, also named John, was Managing Director of a huge industrial concern employing 1,500 workers. Steel plates, springs and other items were provided for the railway, shipping, armaments and mining industries all over the world. The large steel plates for the ship Mauretania were made in the Newburn factory. After the First World War demand for steel lessened and the factories were closed in 1926 and demolished in 1933. Much of the legacy of John Spencer can be discovered in Newburn Village, which is our next destination. ( www.petersen-stainless.co.uk )

Col Sgt

Newburn Drill Hall
Newburn Drill Hall

Passchendaele

4th Battalion War Diary

APPENDIX X A
OPERATION ORDER NO. 1A.

1. The 149th Infantry Bde will attack on the morning of the 26th inst, 4th NF on the right, 5th NF in centre and 7th NF on left, - 57th Div are attacking on our right, with 4th/5th Loyal North Lancs as their left battalion.

2. The battalion will attack on a 3 company frontage each company being on a platoon frontage.

‘A’ company on right, ‘B’ company in centre and ‘D’ company on left. ‘C’ Company will be in reserve on a 2 platoon frontage.

3. (a) Platoons will leap frog and capture and consolidate the objectives already given them i.e. FIRST WAVE to HUTS, SECOND WAVE to line V.2.3.1.6V.2.c.5.1. THIRD WAVE to final objective V.2.a.3.0 to V.2.d.15.55.

(b) Reserve company will move forward with attacking waves to a point approximately 200 yards west of the HUTS.

(c) ‘A’ company will detail parties to obtain touch with battalion on their right at the following points.

(a) Concrete shelter at V.8.a.1.8.

(b) Ditto at V.2.c.4.1.

(c) ROAD BRIDGE at V.2.d.0.6.

4. Two machine guns will accompany 4th wave of ‘B’ Company.

5. Two Stokes Mortars will be attached to ‘C’ company and will be available to fire at any strong points holding up the attack.

6. Barrage will begin to creep forward at ZERO + 8 minutes and will creep at the uniform rate of 100 yards in 8 minutes throughout. Lifts will be at 50 yards at a time.

7. Taping out of the assembly trench will be carried out under an officer from Battalion HQ. One line of tape will be laid from the Railway Embankment at point V.1.d.0.2. to V.7.b.6.5. Two guides will be left at the end of the tape on Railway Embankment. A short length of tape will be laid at right angles to assembly tape to mark the left of ‘D’ company, short lengths of tape will be laid at right angles to assembly tape every 130 yards to mark company frontages. The assembly tape marks position of leading wave.

8. ‘A’,’C’ and ‘D’ companies will move forward to assembly positions at 7pm tonight each company providing its own covering party. ‘B’ company will withdraw to the assembly tape at 11pm. Completion of assembly will be notified by code word ARRAS, sent by runner to battalion HQ.

9. 1 contact aeroplane will be flying over companies front at zero + 1 hour 30 mins and at zero + 3 hours heading troops will show their position to contact aeroplane only when called for

(a) by Claxon horn

(b) by series of white Very lights dropped from the plane.

10. RAP will be at PASCHAL FARM 1.

11. PRISONERS 1 man as escort to 5 Bosches

12. Reports will be forwarded to battalion HQ at TAUBE FARM as frequently as possible and at least once in the first hour after zero.

13. Battalion HQ will open at TAUBE FARM at 7pm tonight.

14. Zero will be at the fall of the barrage. Time of this will be notified later, also synchronisation of watches.

15. General compass bearing of attack 55 degrees magnetic.

16. Acknowledge.

Issued at 1.30 pm
Copies to CO ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’.

4th Battalion War Diary

CORRIGENDA TO OPERATION ORDER NO 1A

1. Owing to the swampy state of the ground on the right of our attack, it has been decided to attack on a 2 Coy frontage instead of a 3 Coy frontage. ‘B’, ’C’ and ‘D’ companies will have dispositions exactly as laid down in O.O. no 1A.

2. ‘A’ company will NOT go to the assembly tape but will move from TRANQUILLE HOUSE to TAUBE FARM at 9pm tonight, when they will be in battalion reserve.

3. Hot tea and rum will be brought up tonight 1 guide per company to be at TAUBE FARM at 11pm to guide carrying parties.

4. Acknowledge.
Issued at 2pm
Copies to CO, ‘A’,’B’,’C’ and ‘D’

The CO reported the change to Bde HQ:

Summary of events

25th Oct 1917

Communication between Bn HQ and the front line was extremely difficult as the route was under direct observation and subject to incessant shelling by the Germans. This was especially so on the line running parallel with the road north-west and south east of Tranquille House, because it appeared to be an enemy barrage line. There was no cover except for shell holes, so it had not been possible to lay a telephone wire, or for a visual signalling system to be established.

Two runners did manage to reach the front line coy and all operation orders were delivered safely. However, it was a close call, because they had mistakenly overshot the front line by at least fifty yards and had been stopped before they stumbled on the enemy.

Front line company were constantly shelled by our own Howitzers, and some casualties resulted.

At 7pm Bn HQ moved forward to Taube Farm and the R.A.P. moved to Paschal Farm 2 from Olga Houses 3.

Between 7 and 9pm coys moved forward to their assembly positions.

The attack formation was altered twice in 12 hours. The original intention was, to attack on a 3 coy frontage, each coy being on a platoon frontage in depth, in 4 waves (1 platoon in each wave). After the relief it was realised that with the swampy ground on the Bn right flank, there would only be room for a two coy frontage. The CO reported this to Bde HQ (Appendix B).

Map 1 - 149th Brigade positions

25 Oct 1917

Summary of events

When 2nd Lt J.A. Burton actually laid the tape, he realised that there was only sufficient room for an attack frontage of one coy. Therefore, the front line platoon frontage was cut accordingly to one coy, the second coy was positioned to the rear of the right hand coy of the 5th Bn with instructions to wedge between the 4th and 5th Bn Coys at the front once the attack started. The third coy was held in reserve about one hundred yards to the rear of the front line coy (on a two platoon frontage) and the fourth coy under the Bn Cdr was positioned at Taube Farm 4 and Tranquille House 5.

The Coys assembled in shell holes and dug-in, in the formation described above. A piece of tape was laid to mark the boundary between the 4th and 5th Bn. Hot food was packed in hay and carried up to the coys at the assembly points.

A leap frog system of attack, recently practised in training, was to be employed. The lead platoon was to take the first objective, the second platoon was to pass through to take the second objective, the third platoon the final objective. The fourth under the company commander were to be used for counter attack or consolidation according to the tactical situation.

26th Oct 1917

At 3am heavy rain began to fall again and at 4.05am the 4th Bn reported it was in position for the attack.

At zero hour, 5.40am, the barrage opened up and began to creep forward at a rate of one hundred yards every eight minutes. The fusiliers of the149th Bde rose to their feet to advance behind it, with the 4th & 5th Bn Loyal North Lancashires (57th Divn) on the right flank and the 35th Divn on the left. Had the 'going' been good, the troops who lay close up under the barrage (so close indeed that several casualties were suffered) waiting for the first "lift", would not have had a problem advancing at the rate of the creeping barrage.

'The rain had, however, done its deadly work, for all the gallant fellows could do was to drag themselves along through the thick clinging mud and water at a much slower pace than the barrage, which soon got ahead'. Then form "pill box" and shell hole murderous fire was poured upon them. Many fell dead; some of the wounded fell into the gaping holes of water and were drowned; fortunate were those who escaped, but on went the survivors' (Wyrell. p.244).

The allied barrage consisted entirely of shrapnel and was therefore quite useless against the first objective, which consisted of concrete huts. To make matters worse the rain continued to fall heavily and the condition of mud and water were perfectly appalling.

Bn HQ received a wire from the Bde Major at 8.50am stating that a wounded Forward Observation Officer had reported that the first objective had been taken and the men were advancing well to the second objective. This information proved incorrect because 2nd Lt Wood subsequently returned wounded and reported that casualties were heavy and the attack was held up in front of the Huts. The attack had actually ground to a halt about eighty yards west of the line of huts. The machine gun fire and sniping was so severe that any further advance was quite impossible and reporting the situation back to HQ extremely difficult. Two runners were sent to the front line to try and gather information but they both failed to return.

At 11am, 2nd Lt Burton was sent forward to reconnoitre and he confirmed that the attack was held up about one hundred yards short of the Huts. At 1pm Sgt Thompson returned from the front line and confirmed 2nd Lt Burtons’ report stating that casualties were very heavy. Similar news was brought down later by Capt J.V. Gregory. This information was relayed to Bde HQ by pigeon and signaled by Lucas Lamp. Several messages were sent during the afternoon. Two platoons from the Reserve Company, under the command of 2nd Lts Peddie and Scott, were sent forward at 6pm to consolidate the original line held before the attack.

The Bn was relieved about midnight by the 4th Bn East Yorks and proceeded, via the duckboard track known as Railway Street 6, to Rose Crossroads camp 7. The 6th Bn DLI organised straggler posts in likely places to round up men returning from the front line and to guide them to camp.

Roll call revealed the appalling casualties suffered by the 4th Bn. 2nd Lts D.A. Smith, and W. Ruddy had been killed in action with 2nd Lt R.A.A. Simpson later dying of wounds. 2nd Lts G.R. Charlewood, A.W.P. Leary, H.B. Bell, J.R. Ruddock and R. Wood were wounded, and 2nd Lt R.G. Rayner and H. Stobbs were missing. Thirty-six fusiliers had been killed, one hundred and fifty-six wounded and sixty four were still missing. A total of two hundred and fifty six, more than fifty percent of those that had gone into action. The 5th Bn fared even worse with a total of 12 officers and 439 men either killed, wounded or missing. 7th Bn losses amounted to 11 officers and 246 men.

Summary compiled from 149th Bde War Diary, 4th Bn War Diary & History of the 50th Division,

Casualties

Records show that at least 100 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were actually killed in action or died of wounds between the 25th and 27th of Oct 1917. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this battle, select the link.

4th Battalion War Diary

The following is a list of points noted in the attack:-

1. Two machine guns were attached to the battalion in the attack. They went forward with the support company (in rear of 5th Bn) and did excellent work.

2. Two Stokes Mortars were to be attached but did not succeed in getting ammunition forward.

3. Communication to Bde exceptionally valuable and wonderfully maintained under a heavy barrage by the Bn. Signalling Officer (2nd Lt W.C.Clemitson) and the other signallers. The wire to 5th Bn almost instantly maintained, visual to Bde also kept up although the lamp was knocked over three times, and pigeons.

4. Wounded. Appalling difficulty in getting wounded as the slightest movement in the front line was checked by Machine Guns and sniping.

5. Liaison. Lt W.B. Hicks acted as liaison officer between the 4th Bn and the Bde on the right flank. Liaison with the 4th/5th Loyal North Lancashires maintained through 5th Northd Fus, who had an officer from that battalion with them.

6. Rations Cannot be brought up by transport in these conditions. Men must carry two days rations and also two Tommy cookers.

7. Kit as laid down appear the best, though many packs will probably be thrown away.

8. Hot food should always be carried up to the troops the night before the attack - also RUM.

9. Guiding appallingly difficult owing to the scarcity of landmarks, obvious landmarks, such as the railway are dangerous as the enemy naturally concentrates his artillery on them. We suggest a double line of pickets with plain wire on them. This is not conspicuous and very helpful.-

4th Battalion War Diary

APPENDIX C

(i) MESSAGES during the action

L.T.19 timed 12.20pm. Wounded officer left company reports attack on huts in V.1.D held up by many machine guns about 150 yards west of Huts. Right company held up in same position. Right company of SEED (5th NF) held up on same line. Impossible to work round flanks owing to swamp on right and machine guns on left. AAA. I have one company still in reserve in TAUBE FARM and TRANQUILLE HOUSE area AAA I do not propose to make another frontal attack with this company, as this appears to me to be a reliable report. AAA the officer states that Huts are very little damaged and full of machine guns AAA. Unless I receive orders to the contrary I will move Reserve Company up tonight at dusk to take over and reorganise front line AAA. Am investigating this information and will report later. AAA Ground very swampy and casualties very heavy in wounded officers company.

LT.20 timed 12.40pm In continuation of my L.T.19 I am unable to reach front line companies owing to machine gun fire and sniping from Huts and concrete emplacements. South of Huts. AAA There is not the slightest doubt that the whole attack is held up 100 to 150 yards west of Huts. I am unable to ascertain definitely position of troops on my right but they do not appear to have made much progress. AAA I am unable to estimate casualties.

LT 21 timed ? A very reliable Sgt has just brought back a report from front line. He states that 50 of our men and 2 officers are lying about 100 yards west of middle of Huts. Remainder of 3 companies, he thinks, are casualties. Total about 300. BOSCH planes have been flying low over front line shooting at them. Bosches have also sniped majority of our wounded as they tried to get back. Attack started in excellent order and was clear of BOSCH barrage before it came down – a few men succeeded in reaching HUTS but have not come back. Remainder caught by machine gun fire from HUTS and both flanks. Can you please give me assistance of large party to get our wounded out tonight with stretchers. It requires about 6 men per stretcher.

LT 22 timed 3.44pm Ref B.M.871

I am sending up 2 platoons tonight at dusk. They will consolidate original front line held before the attack and remaining 3 company’s will withdraw. I should like to send them out of the line. Is this possible please, and can staff captain arrange billets for them (probably 70 or 80 men). If the other company is not to be relieved, could you send water, rum, hot food and rations up for them and battalion HQ. Guides could meet ration parties and stretcher parties at PASCHAL FARM. I should also like a large carrying party with stretchers. Guides as above. – Sent by pigeon and substance of it by visual.

149th Bde War Diary

Speaking generally, the Bde was ordered to attack in a north-eastern direction between the southern border of the Houthhulst Forest and the Broembeek on a frontage running in an irregular manner through Aden House, and the principal objectives included "Hill 23," "Colbert Crossroads" and the groups of huts about seven hundred yards south-west of Schaap Balie. Aeroplane photographs were unfortunately not very clear, but they revealed an area that was capable of an obstinate defence, and one that might be rendered impassable by heavy rain. The chief obstacles were a double row of concrete huts or "pill-boxes," and ground that was already dangerously full of water- holes.

Heavy rain began to fall again at 3am and the "very few firm pieces of ground" became less in number; the water, trickling at first down the muddy sides of shell holes, soon became small streams, filling the occupants of the shell holes with gloomy prospects of success in the attack; pools of water widened almost to small lakes. Even in the darkness it was possible to discern stretches of water out in No Man's Land across which the attackers would have to pass.

2nd Passchendaele - Locations

1st Objective - Line of huts - approximately 300 to 400 yards distant.

2nd Objective - Approximately 500 yards distant.

3rd (Final) Objective - Colbert Crossroads and Hill 23.

Turenne Crossing - Road junction at railway crossing situated in 5th Bn front line prior to attack (Map1)

Ypres - Medieval Flemish town around which the salient formed in 1914. Known as Ieper in the Flemish language.















































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…

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Second Battle of Passchendaele

24th Oct 1917

On the night of 24th the 149th Bde relieved units of the 34th Division south of the Houthulst Forest and astride the Ypres to Staden Railway line. The 4th Bn moved into trenches in the right sub sector and the 7th Bn the left sub sector.

25th Oct 1917

At 8.31am Operation Orders for an attack were received from Brigade HQ.

4th Battalion War Diary

APPENDIX X A
OPERATION ORDER NO. 1A.

1. The 149th Infantry Bde will attack on the morning of the 26th inst, 4th NF on the right, 5th NF in centre and 7th NF on left, - 57th Div are attacking on our right, with 4th/5th Loyal North Lancs as their left battalion.

2. The battalion will attack on a 3 company frontage each company being on a platoon frontage.

‘A’ company on right, ‘B’ company in centre and ‘D’ company on left. ‘C’ Company will be in reserve on a 2 platoon frontage.

3. (a) Platoons will leap frog and capture and consolidate the objectives already given them i.e. FIRST WAVE to HUTS, SECOND WAVE to line V.2.3.1.6 – V.2.c.5.1. THIRD WAVE to final objective V.2.a.3.0 to V.2.d.15.55.

(b) Reserve company will move forward with attacking waves to a point approximately 200 yards west of the HUTS.

(c) ‘A’ company will detail parties to obtain touch with battalion on their right at the following points.

(a) Concrete shelter at V.8.a.1.8.

(b) Ditto at V.2.c.4.1.

(c) ROAD BRIDGE at V.2.d.0.6.

4. Two machine guns will accompany 4th wave of ‘B’ Company.

5. Two Stokes Mortars1 will be attached to ‘C’ company and will be available to fire at any strong points holding up the attack.

6. Barrage will begin to creep forward at ZERO + 8 minutes and will creep at the uniform rate of 100 yards in 8 minutes throughout. Lifts will be at 50 yards at a time.

7. Taping out of the assembly trench will be carried out under an officer from Battalion HQ. One line of tape will be laid from the Railway Embankment at point V.1.d.0.2. to V.7.b.6.5. Two guides will be left at the end of the tape on Railway Embankment. A short length of tape will be laid at right angles to assembly tape to mark the left of ‘D’ company, short lengths of tape will be laid at right angles to assembly tape every 130 yards to mark company frontages. The assembly tape marks position of leading wave.

8. ‘A’,’C’ and ‘D’ companies will move forward to assembly positions at 7pm tonight each company providing its own covering party. ‘B’ company will withdraw to the assembly tape at 11pm. Completion of assembly will be notified by code word ARRAS, sent by runner to battalion HQ.

9. 1 contact aeroplane will be flying over companies front at zero + 1 hour 30 mins and at zero + 3 hours heading troops will show their position to contact aeroplane only when called for

(a) by Claxon horn

(b) by series of white Very lights dropped from the plane.

10. RAP will be at PASCHAL FARM2.

11. PRISONERS 1 man as escort to 5 Bosches

12. Reports will be forwarded to battalion HQ at TAUBE FARM3 as frequently as possible and at least once in the first hour after zero.

13. Battalion HQ will open at TAUBE FARM at 7pm tonight.

14. Zero will be at the fall of the barrage. Time of this will be notified later, also synchronisation of watches.

15. General compass bearing of attack 55 degrees magnetic.

16. Acknowledge.

Issued at 1.30 pm
Copies to CO ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’.

4th Battalion War Diary

CORRIGENDA TO OPERATION ORDER NO 1A

1. Owing to the swampy state of the ground on the right of our attack, it has been decided to attack on a 2 Coy frontage instead of a 3 Coy frontage. ‘B’,’C’ and ‘D’ companies will have dispositions exactly as laid down in O.O. no 1A.

2. ‘A’ company will NOT go to the assembly tape but will move from TRANQUILLE HOUSE4 to TAUBE FARM at 9pm tonight, when they will be in battalion reserve.

3. Hot tea and rum will be brought up tonight 1 guide per company to be at TAUBE FARM at 11pm to guide carrying parties.

4. Acknowledge.
Issued at 2pm
Copies to CO, ‘A’,’B’,’C’ and ‘D’

The CO reported the change to Bde HQ:

25th Oct 1917

Communication between Bn HQ and the front line was extremely difficult as the route was under direct observation and subject to incessant shelling by the Germans. This was especially so on the line running parallel with the road north-west and south east of Tranquille House, because it appeared to be an enemy barrage line. There was no cover except for shell holes, so it had not been possible to lay a telephone wire, or for a visual signalling system to be established.

Two runners did manage to reach the front line coy and all operation orders were delivered safely. However, it was a close call, because they had mistakenly overshot the front line by at least fifty yards and had been stopped before they stumbled on the enemy.

Front line company were constantly shelled by our own Howitzers, and some casualties resulted.

At 7pm Bn HQ moved forward to Taube Farm and the R.A.P.5 moved to Paschal Farm from Olga Houses6.

Between 7 and 9pm coys moved forward to their assembly positions.

The attack formation was altered twice in 12 hours. The original intention was, to attack on a 3 coy frontage, each coy being on a platoon frontage in depth, in 4 waves (1 platoon in each wave). After the relief it was realised that with the swampy ground on the Bn right flank, there would only be room for a two coy frontage. The CO reported this to Bde HQ (Appendix B).

4th Battalion War Diary

APPENDIX B

L.T.3. CO’s report. “From reports received from the 11th SUFFOLKS," the right of my Battalion front is a swamp. Even if it is possible to assemble the right company, I do not consider they would be able to advance, but would have to be dug out. I propose with your permission to attack with two companies.only in the front line, one in support, and to keep the fourth company in reserve in TRANQUILLE HOUSE area. Conditions on rest of the front are such that if a man steps off a firm piece of ground into the slightest hollow he has to be dug out. There are very few firm pieces of ground away from the Railway and Roads.

Map 1 - 149th Brigade positions

25 Oct 1917

Summary of events

When 2nd Lt J.A. Burton actually laid the tape, he realised that there was only sufficient room for an attack frontage of one coy. Therefore, the front line platoon frontage was cut accordingly to one coy, the second coy was positioned to the rear of the right hand coy of the 5th Bn with instructions to wedge between the 4th and 5th Bn Coys at the front once the attack started. The third coy was held in reserve about one hundred yards to the rear of the front line coy (on a two platoon frontage) and the fourth coy under the Bn Cdr was positioned at Taube Farm and Tranquille House.

The Coys assembled in shell holes and dug-in, in the formation described above. A piece of tape was laid to mark the boundary between the 4th and 5th Bn. Hot food was packed in hay and carried up to the coys at the assembly points.

A leap frog system of attack, recently practised in training, was to be employed. The lead platoon was to take the first objective, the second platoon was to pass through to take the second objective, the third platoon the final objective. The fourth under the company commander were to be used for counter attack or consolidation according to the tactical situation.

26th Oct 1917

At 3am heavy rain began to fall again and at 4.05am the 4th Bn reported it was in position for the attack.

At zero hour, 5.40am, the barrage opened up and began to creep forward at a rate of one hundred yards every eight minutes. The fusiliers of the149th Bde rose to their feet to advance behind it, with the 4th & 5th Bn Loyal North Lancashires (57th Divn) on the right flank and the 35th Divn on the left. Had the 'going' been good, the troops who lay close up under the barrage (so close indeed that several casualties were suffered) waiting for the first "lift", would not have had a problem advancing at the rate of the creeping barrage.

'The rain had, however, done its deadly work, for all the gallant fellows could do was to drag themselves along through the thick clinging mud and water at a much slower pace than the barrage, which soon got ahead'. Then form "pill box" and shell hole murderous fire was poured upon them. Many fell dead; some of the wounded fell into the gaping holes of water and were drowned; fortunate were those who escaped, but on went the survivors' (Wyrell. p.244).

The allied barrage consisted entirely of shrapnel and was therefore quite useless against the first objective, which consisted of concrete huts. To make matters worse the rain continued to fall heavily and the condition of mud and water were perfectly appalling.

Bn HQ received a wire from the Bde Major at 8.50am stating that a wounded Forward Observation Officer had reported that the first objective had been taken and the men were advancing well to the second objective. This information proved incorrect because 2nd Lt Wood subsequently returned wounded and reported that casualties were heavy and the attack was held up in front of the Huts. The attack had actually ground to a halt about eighty yards west of the line of huts. The machine gun fire and sniping was so severe that any further advance was quite impossible and reporting the situation back to HQ extremely difficult. Two runners were sent to the front line to try and gather information but they both failed to return.

Captain J.C Gregory
Captain J.C Gregory

At 11am, 2nd Lt Burton was sent forward to reconnoitre and he confirmed that the attack was held up about one hundred yards short of the Huts. At 1pm Sgt Thompson returned from the front line and confirmed 2nd Lt Burtons’ report stating that casualties were very heavy. Similar news was brought down later by Capt J.V. Gregory. This information was relayed to Bde HQ by pigeon and signaled by Lucas Lamp. Several messages were sent during the afternoon. Ttwo platoons from the Reserve Company, under the command of 2nd Lts Peddie and Scott, were sent forward at 6pm to consolidate the original line held before the attack.

2nd Lt F.G. Peddie
2nd Lt F.G. Peddie

The Bn was relieved about midnight by the 4th Bn East Yorks and proceeded, via the duckboard track known as Railway Street7, to Rose Crossroads camp8. The 6th Bn DLI organised straggler posts in likely places to round up men returning from the front line and to guide them to camp.

Roll call revealed the appalling casualties suffered by the 4th Bn. 2nd Lts D.A.Smith, and W.Ruddy had been killed in action with 2nd Lt R.A.A Simpson later dying of wounds. 2nd Lts G.R.Charlewood, A.W.P.Leary, H.B.Bell, J.R.Ruddock and R.Wood were wounded, and 2nd Lt R.G.Rayner and H Stobbs were missing. Thirty-six fusiliers had been killed, one hundred and fifty-six wounded and sixty four were still missing. A total of two hundred and fifty six, more than fifty percent of those that had gone into action. The 5th Bn fared even worse with a total of 12 officers and 439 men either killed, wounded or missing. 7th Bn losses amounted to 11 officers and 246 men.

 

Summary compiled from:






































































Casualties

Records show that at least 100 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were actually killed in action or died of wounds between the 25th and 27th of Oct 1917. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this battle, select the link.

4th Battalion War Diary

The following is a list of points noted in the attack:-

1. Two machine guns were attached to the battalion in the attack. They went forward with the support company (in rear of 5th Bn) and did excellent work.

2. Two Stokes Mortars were to be attached but did not succeed in getting ammunition forward.

3. Communication to Bde exceptionally valuable and wonderfully maintained under a heavy barrage by the Bn. Signalling Officer (2nd Lt W.C.Clemitson) and the other signallers. The wire to 5th Bn almost instantly maintained, visual to Bde also kept up although the lamp was knocked over three times, and pigeons.

4. Wounded. Appalling difficulty in getting wounded as the slightest movement in the front line was checked by Machine Guns and sniping.

5. Liaison. Lt W.B. Hicks acted as liaison officer between the 4th Bn and the Bde on the right flank. Liaison with the 4th/5th Loyal North Lancashires maintained through 5th Northd Fus, who had an officer from that battalion with them.

6. Rations Cannot be brought up by transport in these conditions. Men must carry two days rations and also two Tommy cookers.

7. Kit as laid down appear the best, though many packs will probably be thrown away.

8. Hot food should always be carried up to the troops the night before the attack - also RUM.

9. Guiding appallingly difficult owing to the scarcity of landmarks, obvious landmarks, such as the railway are dangerous as the enemy naturally concentrates his artillery on them. We suggest a double line of pickets with plain wire on them. This is not conspicuous and very helpful.-

4th Battalion War Diary

APPENDIX C

(i) MESSAGES during the action

L.T.19 timed 12.20pm. Wounded officer left company reports attack on huts in V.1.D held up by many machine guns about 150 yards west of Huts. Right company held up in same position. Right company of SEED (5th NF) held up on same line. Impossible to work round flanks owing to swamp on right and machine guns on left. AAA. I have one company still in reserve in TAUBE FARM and TRANQUILLE HOUSE area AAA I do not propose to make another frontal attack with this company, as this appears to me to be a reliable report. AAA the officer states that Huts are very little damaged and full of machine guns AAA. Unless I receive orders to the contrary I will move Reserve Company up tonight at dusk to take over and reorganise front line AAA. Am investigating this information and will report later. AAA Ground very swampy and casualties very heavy in wounded officers company.

LT.20 timed 12.40pm In continuation of my L.T.19 I am unable to reach front line companies owing to machine gun fire and sniping from Huts and concrete emplacements. South of Huts. AAA There is not the slightest doubt that the whole attack is held up 100 to 150 yards west of Huts. I am unable to ascertain definitely position of troops on my right but they do not appear to have made much progress. AAA I am unable to estimate casualties.

LT 21 timed ? A very reliable Sgt has just brought back a report from front line. He states that 50 of our men and 2 officers are lying about 100 yards west of middle of Huts. Remainder of 3 companies, he thinks, are casualties. Total about 300. BOSCH planes have been flying low over front line shooting at them. Bosches have also sniped majority of our wounded as they tried to get back. Attack started in excellent order and was clear of BOSCH barrage before it came down – a few men succeeded in reaching HUTS but have not come back. Remainder caught by machine gun fire from HUTS and both flanks. Can you please give me assistance of large party to get our wounded out tonight with stretchers. It requires about 6 men per stretcher.

LT 22 timed 3.44pm Ref B.M.871

I am sending up 2 platoons tonight at dusk. They will consolidate original front line held before the attack and remaining 3 company’s will withdraw. I should like to send them out of the line. Is this possible please, and can staff captain arrange billets for them (probably 70 or 80 men). If the other company is not to be relieved, could you send water, rum, hot food and rations up for them and battalion HQ. Guides could meet ration parties and stretcher parties at PASCHAL FARM. I should also like a large carrying party with stretchers. Guides as above. – Sent by pigeon and substance of it by visual.

149th Bde War Diary

Speaking generally, the Bde was ordered to attack in a north-eastern direction between the southern border of the Houthhulst Forest9 and the Broembeek10 on a frontage running in an irregular manner through Aden House11, and the principal objectives included "Hill 2312," "Colbert Crossroads13" and the groups of huts about seven hundred yards south-west of Schaap Balie14. Aeroplane photographs were unfortunately not very clear, but they revealed an area that was capable of an obstinate defence, and one that might be rendered impassable by heavy rain. The chief obstacles were a double row of concrete huts or "pill-boxes," and ground that was already dangerously full of water- holes.

Heavy rain began to fall again at 3am and the "very few firm pieces of ground" became less in number; the water, trickling at first down the muddy sides of shell holes, soon became small streams, filling the occupants of the shell holes with gloomy prospects of success in the attack; pools of water widened almost to small lakes. Even in the darkness it was possible to discern stretches of water out in No Man's Land across which the attackers would have to pass.

2nd Passchendaele - Military Units

34th Division Comprised of the 101st, 102nd and 103rd Infantry Brigades

The 101st Bde - Comprised of the 15th and 16th Bn - Royal Scots, 10th Bn - Lincolnshire Regt and 11th Bn - Suffolk Regt.

The 102nd Bde - Comprised of the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Bn - Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 103rd Bde - Comprised of the 24/27th, 25th and 26th Bn - Northumberland Fusiliers.

35th Division - - Comprised of the 104th, 105th and 106th Infantry Brigades

The 104th Bde - Comprised of the 17th, 18th, 20th & 23rd Bns - The Lancashire Fusiliers.

The 105th Bde - Comprised of the 15th & 16th Bns - The Cheshire Regiment, 14th Bn - The Gloucestershire Regiment and the 15th Bn - The Sherwood Foresters.

The 106th Bde - Comprised of the 17th Bn - The Royal Scots, 17th Bn - The Prince of Wales' Own, 19th Bn - The Durham Light Infantry and the 18th Bn - The Highland Light Infantry.

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

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

The 150th Bde comprised 4th Bn East Yorkshires, 4th Bn Green Howards, 5th Bn Green Howards and 5th Bn Durham Light Infantry

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

The 149th MGC -

57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division -

The 170th (2nd North Lancashire) Bde - Comprised of the 2/5th Bn - King’s Own, 2/4th, 2/5th & 4/5th Bn - Loyal North Lancashire Regt.

The 171st (2nd Liverpool) Bde - Comprised of the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th & 2/8th Bn - King’s.

The 172nd (2nd South Lancashire) Bde - Comprised of the 2/9th & 2/10th Bn - King’s, 2/4th & 2/5th Bn - South Lancashire Regt.

Second Battle of the Scarpe

Summary of events

With the exception of the 4th Bn (ordered to move to the old German line north of Beaurains) and two sections of the 149th MGC who were to support the attack of the 150th Bde, the 149th Bde was to remain in billets at Ronville 1.

The 151st Bde and the 4th Bn. The Germans were pushed down the hill from the Wancourt Tower 2 and Guemappe 3 was taken. The 4th Bn reached Buck Trench 4, and the Divn frontline was advanced to a point not far from the outskirts of Cherisy 5. HQ was established at Telegraph Hill 6

www.fairmile.fsbusiness.co.uk/odellarras.htm.

23rd April 1917 (St Georges Day)

At 4.15am the front line Bns were reported in position. The 150th Bde attack was to be carried out by the 4th Bn East Yorkshires on the right and the 4th Bn Green Howards on the left. Five minutes before Zero hour two tanks nosed their way to the front and moved slowly in a north-westerly direction.

At 8am the Bn moved forward again to the O.G. 1st line (map ref: N.5.b) and remained there during the day at half an hour notice. The Bn moved forward at five minutes notice at 7.45pm to the Brown Line 7 and for tactical purposes came under the orders of the GOC 151st Bde.

During the early morning of the 24th the 151st Bde relieved the 150th Bde, who moved back into reserve in the Harp area 8; the 4th Bn were attached to the 151st Bde, the remainder of the 149th being in support.

At about 11.30am, the enemy was reported retiring in front of the 30th Divn, and the GOC of the 30th Divn stated that he was going to push on to the Blue line 9.

Wancourt

The Bn moved forward from the Brown Line under the orders of the 151st Bde. ‘B’ Coy were sent forward to the front line and came under the orders of the 5th Bn DLI. They dug and occupied a new trench connected to the right flank of the 9th Bn DLI. Their covering party captured four Germans. No contact was made on the right flank until 3pm at which time communications were established with the 5th Bn Border Regt who were to the rear and slightly right of them. The 5th Bn Borders agreed to come forward at night and dig and occupy a trench that would be connected with ‘B’ Coy on the left.

‘A’, ’C’ and ‘D’ Coys and Bn HQ arrived at the old British front line north of Wancourt Tower (dispositions as per sketch) 2.30am. Rations were brought up to the 5th Bn Border HQ in the Long Lane 10 and brought up to ‘A’, ‘D’ and HQ by ‘C’ Coy. There was insufficient time to deliver rations to ‘B’ Coy before daylight so the men had to consume their second lot of iron rations. ‘B’ Coy were subjected to continuous, heavy shellfire and persistent sniping. 2nd Lt R Johnson and five men were killed and 16 men were wounded.

('B' Coy or the Bn) Lewis Guns identified good targets at ranges varying round 1000 yards and inflicted several casualties on the enemy. One Lewis gun was destroyed by shellfire. The areas occupied by the remaining Coys were also subjected to considerable artillery fire, which was especially violent between 2.30am and 7am and again between 1.30pm and 2pm. No direct hits were obtained on the trench and no casualties were sustained in this line during daylight.

2pm A part of ten stretcher-bearers and ten men were sent out to collect wounded still lying on the battlefield.

The GOC 151st Bde was instructed to advance at 4pm under an artillery barrage. But, meanwhile, the 30th Divn had already reached the Blue line, and was digging in on it, and the 151st Bde was, therefore, ordered to conform immediately to the movement of the 30th Divn. The 5th Borders Regt swung up their right flank and obtained touch at about 4pm. But the 9th DLI, in the centre, with a Coy of the 4th Bn attacked, and had a sharp tussle with the enemy before occupying the Blue Line 11. (50th Divn)

3pm ‘B’ Coy under 9th Bn DLI orders (2.25pm) went forward one platoon to reconnoitre and capture an enemy trench 600 yards long astride the railway. The platoon captured the trench sustaining three casualties in the process.

Bn HQ received Operation Orders at 3.30pm stating that the 15th Divn were advancing on the left and 9th Bn DLI would support their advance with rifle, Lewis Gun and MG fire. Also that they would push forward patrols to reconnoitre and capture the German trench six hundred yards long astride the railway. OC 9th Bn DLI detailed ‘B’ Coy for this work and captured and held the trench as described above.

At 5.22pm 4th Bn HQ received a wire from OC 9th Bn DLI stating that one of the 'B' Coy platoons had just captured an enemy trench (from map ref: O.20.7.6. to O.20.C.1.9) and was holding it. Only three casualties were incurred. Fine piece of work. Lt Col B.D. Gibson and 2nd Lt Burton went forward to reconnoitre the new positions occupied by ‘B’ Coy and ‘A’ and ‘D’ Coys.

Another platoon was sent forward under heavy artillery and machine gun fire to help hold it. Under cover of darkness one more platoon of ‘B’ Coy was sent forward to the trench and three strong points were constructed, two north and one south of the railway.

10pm ‘A’ and ‘D’ Coys dug a new support trench between the railway and the Cojeul River and occupied it. One machine gun was attached to each Coy. At 10.30pm Bn HQ moved to a dugout at the old German gun pits at the north end of old German support line between Cojeul River and the railway. ‘C’

2nd Scarpe - Military Units

15th (Scottish) Division - Comprised of the 44th, 45th and 46th Infantry Brigades

The 44th Bde - Comprised of the 9th Bn - Black Watch, 8th Bn - Seaforth Highlanders, 8th & 10th Bns - Gordon Highlanders, 7th Bn - Camerons.

The 45th Bde -Comprised of the 13th Bn - Royal Scots, 6th & 7th Bn - Royal Scots Fusiliers, 6th Bn - Camerons, 11th Bn - Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The 46th Bde - Comprised of the 10th Bn - Scottish Rifles, 7th & 8th Bn Kings Own Scottish Borderers, 10th & 11th Bn - Highland Light Infantry, 12th Bn - Highland Light Infantry.

30th Division - Consisted of the 89th, 90th and 91st Bde.

The 89th Bde comprised of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Bns - The Kings Liverpool Regiment

The 90th Bde comprised of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Bns - The Manchester Regiment.

The 91st Bde comprised of the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 24th Bns - The Manchester Regiment.

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

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

The 150th Bde 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 comprised the 1/6th, 1/8th, 1/9th Bn - DLI and 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn - Border Regt.

149th MGC -

 

Summary compiled from:















































Gird Trench, Hook Sap

12th November 1916

‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys moved into Snag Trench 1 and Snag Support 2, ‘A’ Coy to Abbaye Trench 3 and ‘D’ Coy the Flers Line 4. The Bn was warned to be ready for an assault on Hook Sap 5. Lt Col. Gibson visited the front line system of trenches and reported that the communication trench was impassable in many places and the condition of Snag front line and support was extremely bad.

Snag Trench was 6ft wide and it was almost impossible to move along. In several instances men had become completely stuck in the mud and took over an hour to be dug out. Rifle fire was fairly heavy during early morning of the 12th. The German 5th Bn Grenadier Guards were now in the trenches opposite the Bn and were much more active than the Saxon Regt who were opposite on the previous tour in the trenches.

At 7.45am the enemy front line very heavily shelled.

At 10am the Bn received word that the attack on Hook Sap was postponed until the 14th and would be carried out by the 6th and 7th Bns. Work continued on Snag new support trench. Front line system was heavily shelled during the morning with the Bn suffering about twenty casualties with several men temporarily buried as well.

13th November 1916

Orders were received stating that the 1st Divn would relieve the 50th Divn between the 17th and 19th of November.

At 6.30pm, Bde HQ issued an operation order, detailing the 5th Bn to attack on the right flank and the 7th Bn on the left. The 4th Bn were to be held in support with two Coys in Hexham Road 6 and two in the Flers Line (with 5th Bn Green Howards attached). The 6th Bn were to hold the front line from the left of the 7th Bn to the Bde Boundary on the left and support the attack with Lewis Gun and rifle fire.

During the night of the 12th/13th Snag new support trench was dug and completed and Pioneer Alley 7 was cleared as far as possible. To make it passable approximately two hundred duck-boards were laid cross wise in Snag Trench.

At 5.45am a Chinese barrage 8 was laid down on Hook Sap and the Gird Line 9. With the artillery suddenly opening and the barrage steadily creeping forward, it gave the Germans the impression that an infantry assault was in progress.

'This of course, alarms the Bosche, who thinks we are coming over, and brings down all his artillery barrages too. These bombardments took place at 6am for several days’

Enemy retaliation was very severe especially on Hexham Road 10, where an intense barrage was put up for an hour. Bn once again had several casualties from shell-fire.

The relief of the Bn by the 5th Bn commenced at 8pm, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Coys moved back to the Flers Line, but ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys remained at Hexham Road. The relief was completed at 11.45pm.

the 5th and 7th Bns moved into position during the night ready to attack Hook Sap and the Gird Line at 6.45am.

‘The position was now as follows. The 1st Divn had pushed the enemy back to a line running along the top of a ridge running from the Butte of Warlencourt practically due east. This ridge prevented our seeing the enemy’s approaches and support position in Le Barque. On the other hand from Loupart Wood the whole of our approaches and support trenches were in full view of the enemy, as far back as High Wood. Across these two miles no one could move in daylight without being seen by the enemy, and there was practically no position to put our field guns forward of High Wood. The enemys’ front line consisted of two trenches - Gird Line and Gird Support - with a forward trench on top of the ridge, called on the left ‘ Butte Trench and on the right ‘Hook Sap’. Our front line Snag Trench and Maxwell Trench lay this side of the ridge and about two hundred yards away from the German forward trench’.

‘The Butte of Warlencourt was a round chalk hill, rising about one hundred feet above ground level; and had been mined with deep dugouts and made into a formidable strong point. From the Butte, machine guns defended the approaches to Hook Sap, and the Hook Sap and the Gird line, machine guns defended the approaches to the Butte. The ground between and around the opposing trenches had been ploughed up with innumerable shells, some of huge calibre, and it was now a spongy morass, difficult to cross at a walk and impossible at a run. As events proved, unless both the Butte and the Gird Line could be taken at the same time, the one would render the other impossible to hold. This then was the problem that faced the 50th Divn, a problem that would have been difficult enough in the driest of weather, but rendered four times more so by the rain which fell in deluges on three days out of four during the whole of October and November’.

‘A’ and ‘D’ Coy were in Hexham Road and ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coy in the Flers Line when the 5th and 7th Bns went ‘over the top’ to attack Hook Sap, alongside troops from the 2nd Australian Divn. On this occasion mist obscured the attacking troops from the troops in the Flers Line. The enemy defensive barrage was very prompt, opening up within two minutes of zero hour.

The 19th Australian Bn in conjunction with the 5th and 7th Bns took Gird Support. However, the trench was waterlogged, so they fell back to Gird Trench. The 7th Bn appeared to have taken Hook Sap, but they came under severe fire from Butte Trench and nothing more was heard from them. The day wore on and counterattacks were fought off. Two Coys of the 20th (New South Wales) Bn attempted a move against the Maze at 4.45pm but were stopped by machine gun fire. .

At 10am Capt R.W. Cranage was slightly wounded by piece of shrapnel in Flers Line.

On receipt of this news a sap was begun running out from Snag Trench to Hook Sap, the men digging hard. This sap was begun by 'D' Coy of the 4th Bn, who had been detailed for the work in operation orders. But at 11.30am they had to cease digging as the enemy machine gun fire was too heavy (50th Divn)

‘D’ Coy, under the orders of the 7th Bn, proceeded from Hexham Road to the head of Pioneer Alley to continue this Communication Trench towards Hook Sap. Machine Gun fire was so heavy that the party returned to Hexham Road.

At 2.35pm ‘A’ Coy was placed at the disposal of the 5th Bn. At 5pm 2nd Lt T. Bonner and fifty men reinforced the Gird Line on right (held by 5th and 7th Bns) with bombs and occupy left flank portion of line next to enemy. This party was engaged in heavy bomb fighting all next day.

3.30pm Trenches .

CO moves to Hexham Road to meet GOC 149th Bde

At 5pm ‘B’ and ‘C’ Coys move up to Hexham Road. ‘D’ Coy moves up to Snag trench front line.

At 6.30pm ‘B’ Coy moved to Snag trench to dig a Communication Trench from the head of Pioneer Alley to Hook Sap. ‘C’ Coy moved to Snag left of Pioneer Alley. Capt J.W. Robinson (OC ‘B’ Coy) was killed while leading a patrol reconnoitring Hook Sap.

At 11pm Lt Col B.D. Gibson and Maj N.I. Wright (5th Bn) went forward to reorganise the front line prior to an attack. For this task they had one Coy from the 4th and 7th Bns on the left and another Coy from the 4th Bn and the remains of 'A' Coy from the 7th Bn about thirty men.

The two coys in Starfish Trench went forward and occupied positions in Prue Trench vacated by the 7th Bn, who had gone further forward. Later in the day these Coys were recalled as the 7th Bn were returning there. The Bn expected to be relieved that night, but at 3pm orders were received that stating the the 4th and 7th Bn should relieve the Durhams in the front line. The 4th Bn relieved the 8th Bn DLI and 5th Bn Borders. The weather and the mud was appalling and a large number of bombs had to be carried forward, so the men were absolutely exhausted. The relief was not completed until about 9am on the morning of the 3rd.

15th November 1916

Trenches, Hexham Road & Snag Trench

At 12.30am the 4th and 5th Bns launched an attack but owing to intense enemy barrage and heavy rifle and Machine gun fire the attack failed. Capt J.W. Robinson and 2nd Lt F.J. Larken were killed, Lt Col B.D. Gibson and 2nd Lt T. Bonner were wounded and 2nd Lt A.V. Berrick was missing.

At midnight a detachment of the 4th and 5th Bns attacked on the other flank and similar results were achieved. (McCarthy. p.156).

At 2am the Bn was ordered to reorganise and defend Snag Trench. Lt Col Gibson and Wright returned to Bn HQ as nothing more could be done for the present.

Enemy shelling fairly heavy all day.

16th November 1916

The Bn, including the party in the Gird Line, was relieved by the 4th Bn East Yorks and moved back to the Flers Line. The Bn War Diary shows that the operations between the 14th and 16th of November resulted in the 4th Bn suffering 21 men killed, 62 wounded and 5 missing.

On the afternoon of the 17th the Bn was relieved by the 10th Bn Gloucesters (1st Divn) and move back to Bazentin Le Grand 11.

At 12 noon on the 18th the Bn proceeded by rail to Albert and was billeted in Felix Faure.

Casualties

Records show that at least 40 fusiliers from the 4th Bn were killed in action or died of wounds during the fighting for Gird Trench and Hook Sap. For information on 4th Bn burial and memorial sites for casualties sustained in this battle, select the link.

Gird Trench, Hook Sap - Military Units

1st Division - Comprised of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades.

The 1st Bde - Comprised of the 10th Bn - Gloucestershire Regt, 1st Bn - Black Watch, 8th Bn - Royal Berkshire Regt and 1st Bn - Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

The 2nd Bde - Comprised of the 2nd Bn - Royal Sussex Regt, 1st Bn - Loyal North Lancashire Regt, 1st Bn - Northamptonshire Regt and 2nd Bn - King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

The 3rd Bde - Comprised of the 1st Bn - South Wales Borderers, 1st Bn - Gloucestershire Regt, 2nd Bn - Welsh Regt and 2nd Bn - Royal Munster Fusiliers.

Pioneer Battalion - 1/6th - Bn Welsh Regt.

50th (Northumbrian) Division - Comprised 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 Bns - Northumberland Fusiliers.

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

The 151st Bde was comprised the 1/6th, 1/7th, 1/8th and 1/9th Bns - Durham Light Infantry (DLI). 1/5th (Cumberland) Bn, Border Regt.

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