Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

SECOND LIEUTENANT PERCY ERNEST CRADDOCK, 1896 – 13/11/1963

Formerly with Oxfordshire Yeomanry

Craddock, Percy Ernest
Regimental No. 2414
Rank Sergeant
Forename Percy Ernest
Surname Craddock
Regiment Oxfordshire Yeomanry

6912 SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 11 JUNE, 1918

War Office, 11th June, 1918. REGULAR FORCES.

The undermentioned cadets to be temp. 2nd Lts. 29 May 1918:—

Oxf. do Bucks. L.I.—Percy Ernest Craddock.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

Suddenly moved at midnight of March 27/28 by lorries. The lorries made towards Amiens, and it appeared that the battered relics of the Brigade were being withdrawn. The belief was disappointed. At Villers Bretonneux Bennett received orders from a staff officer to go to Marcelçave, where the 61st Division was being concentrated for a counter-attack at dawn against the village of La Motte. In the darkness the route was missed and the convoy drove straight into our front line. Marcelçave was reached eventually, but so late that a dawn attack was impossible. At 10 a.m. on March 28 the forlorn enterprise, in which the 183rd Brigade, the Gloucesters, and the Berks shared, was launched from the station yard. The troops were footsore, sleepless, and unfed. They were mostly men from regimental employ–pioneers, clerks, storemen—to send whom forward across strange country to drive the enemy from the village he had seized on the important Amiens-St. Quentin road was a mockery. Such efforts at counter-attack resulted in more and more ground being lost. Still, the men staggered forward bravely, to come almost at once under fierce enfilade machine-gun fire. The losses were heavy. Craddock, a young officer now serving under Bennett, moved about among the men, encouraging them by his example of coolness and gallantry.

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918 about P E Craddock

Name: P E Craddock
Rank: 2/Lt.
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 29 Sep 1918
Repatriation Date: 29 Nov 1918
Record Number: 2921
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

Craddock,Percy Ernest

Major H. J. (JACK) BENNETT

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 23 JUNE, 1917. 6265

War Office, 23rd June, 1917. TERRITORIAL FORCE. INFANTRY. Oxford, and Bucks. L.I.

Lt. (temp.) (acting Maj.) H. J. Bennett to be Lt. (actg. Maj.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (actg. Maj.) H. J. Bennett to be Capt. (actg. Maj.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916, next below Capt. A. K. Gibson. 24th June 1917.

Captain H. J. Bennett posted to the Battalion as second in command in place of Major W. L. Ruthven.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

19th August 1916

At 10 p.m. on August 19 a raid upon the German trenches near the ‘Sugar Loaf’ was carried out by A Company. The raid was part of an elaborate scheme in which the Australians upon the left and the 2/5th Gloucesters on our own front co-operated. The leading bombing party, which Bennett sent forward under Sergeant Hinton, quickly succeeded in reaching the German parapet and was doing well, when a Mills bomb, dropped or inaccurately thrown, fell amongst the men. The plan was spoilt. A miniature panic ensued, which Bennett and his Sergeant-Major found it difficult to check. As in many raids, a message to retire was passed [1]. The wounded were safely brought in by Bennett, whose control and leadership were worthy of a luckier enterprise.

Late August 1916

Two original officers of the 2/4th, Jack Bennett and Hugh Davenport, commanded A and B Companies respectively.

20th November 1916

At Albert, Bennett was taken from A Company to act as Second in Command of the Berks.

Late December 1916

Colonel Bellamy went on leave, and Bennett, amid many offers to accompany him as batman, departed for three months’ instruction at Aldershot as a senior officer.

7th April 1917

The weather cleared, and at 11 a.m. on the 7th I was allowed to return to my version of Montolu Wood. On the same day the Battalion was relieved by the Bucks and marched back through Soyécourt to Caulaincourt. There we found Bennett, who had come from the Aldershot course to be Second in Command. The château grounds were quieter than before, for our guns had now moved further up towards the line.

26th April 1917

During the morning of April 26 I was sent for by the Colonel. I found Headquarters in their new position, an oblong greenhouse over whose frame, destitute of glass, was stretched a large ‘trench shelter.’ They had passed a shell-ridden night. Bennett just now had narrowly eluded a 5.9. This morning shells were falling as usual in Holnon, and pieces occasionally came humming down to earth close by.

Late October / Early November 1917

Another feature of this period was a Brigade school, with Bennett as its commandant, at Arras. A week’s course was held for each platoon in the Brigade. The school was well run and partly recompensed for the lack of training during the long tours in the trenches.

Late December 1917

Huts, built by the French but vacated more than a year ago and now very dilapidated, formed the accommodation. In them Christmas dinners, to procure which Bennett had proceeded early from the line, were eaten. And O’Meara conducted the Brigade band.

21st March 1918

When the attack was known to have commenced, all transport, quartermasters’ stores, and men left out of the line were ordered back to Ugny, where Bennett as senior Major present formed all our divisional details into a composite Battalion some 900 strong.

22nd March 1918

As March 22 lengthened out, the tide of battle rolled nearer and nearer towards Ugny, above which air fighting at only a few hundred feet from the ground was taking place. At 7 p.m. Bennett had orders to move his men westwards across the Somme. Soon afterwards a runner came post-haste. He told of the fighting on the Beauvoir line; the intrepid General had been wounded in the head while with his shrapnel helmet in his hand he waved encouragement to his men. Colonel Wetherall had already started on the way to Languevoisin but was caught up at Matigny. He the same night (22nd) regained the Beauvoir line and took command of the Brigade. As we have seen, he moved back with the Brigade on the next day.

23rd March 1918

After the battle for the Beauvoir Line the 184th Infantry Brigade was ordered back to Nesle. At Languevoisin on March 23 we find the relics of the 2/4th Oxfords under the command of Major Bennett, who with a force including other members of the Battalion had been providing rearguards at the crossings of the Somme.

Further developments soon diverted Bennett’s force, whose fortunes we are following. At Matigny he was ordered by the Major-General with half his force to guard the Offoy bridgehead and with the other half to hold Voyennes. The Offoy garrison was despatched under Moberly, who was commanding the details of the 184th Brigade, including a hundred Oxfords. Moberly’s force comprised many administrative personnel. ‘What your men lack in numbers they must make up in courage,’ was the Major-General’s encouragement.

24th / 25th March 1918

On the same day of which I was last speaking–March 24–the 184th Brigade, minus those Oxfords who were in action with the 20th Division, though sadly wasted in numbers, formed up again to make a stand. Colonel Wetherall, the acting Brigadier, had received orders to hold the line of the Canal east and south east of Nesle. On the left of this line stood the Oxfords under Bennett, 200 Berks under Willink were in the centre, while the Gloucesters, about 120 strong under Colonel Lawson, guarded the right. At 11 a.m. on March 25 the enemy attacked. As often during these days, when a line was held solidly in one place, it broke elsewhere. By noon the enemy had captured Nesle, and the left flank of the Brigade was turned. During the fight Colonel Wetherall was wounded in the neck by a piece of shell and owed his life to the Brigade Major, Howitt, who held the arteries.

27th / 28th March 1918

Suddenly moved at midnight of March 27/28 by lorries.

The lorries made towards Amiens, and it appeared that the battered relics of the Brigade were being withdrawn. The belief was disappointed. At Villers Bretonneux Bennett received orders from a staff officer to go to Marcelçave, where the 61st Division was being concentrated for a

counter-attack at dawn against the village of La Motte. In the darkness the route was missed and the convoy drove straight into our front line. Marcelçave was reached eventually, but so late that a dawn attack was impossible. At 10 a.m. on March 28 the forlorn enterprise, in which the 183rd Brigade, the Gloucesters, and the Berks shared, was launched from the station yard. The troops were footsore, sleepless, and unfed. They were mostly men from regimental employ–pioneers, clerks, storemen—to send whom forward across strange country to drive the enemy from the village he had seized on the important Amiens-St. Quentin road was a mockery. Such efforts at counter-attack resulted in more and more ground being lost. Still, the men staggered forward bravely, to come almost at once under fierce enfilade machine-gun fire. The losses were heavy. Craddock, a young officer now serving under Bennett, moved about among the men, encouraging them by his example of coolness and gallantry.

When 350 yards short of La Motte the advance was driven to take cover. It was useless to press on; in fact, already there was real danger of being surrounded. Bennett, whose leadership throughout was excellent, with difficulty extricated his men by doubling them in two’s across the open. Towards evening those that got back were placed in trenches outside Marcelçave.

By now that village was being severely shelled and bombed, and in danger of becoming surrounded by the enemy. Soon after dark it was attacked in earnest. Bennett stayed too long in Marcelçave attempting to get news of the situation and some orders. Brigade Headquarters had in fact already left, before Bennett, instead of returning to his former headquarters, decided to join his men in the trenches before the village. Those trenches were no longer being fought for. Near the railway bridge he ran straight into the enemy as they swarmed towards the village and was captured.

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918

Name: H J Bennett
Rank: Major
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 30 Mar 1918
Repatriation Date: Dec 1918
Record Number: 2918
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 23 JUNE, 1917. 6265 and 6266 RELATED TO THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 23 JUNE, 1917. 6265 and 6266 RELATED TO THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY

War Office, 23rd June, 1917.

TEEKITORIAL FORCE. INFANTRY.

Oxford, and Bucks. L.I.—

Maj. (temp.) G. P. R. Beaman to be Maj., with precedence as from 27th Sept. 1914. 24th June 1917.

Maj. (temp.) A. K. Slessor to be Maj., with precedence as from 29th Sept. 1914. 24th June 1917.

Capt. (temp. Maj.) D. M. Rose to relinquish the temp, rank of Maj. 24th June 1917.

Capt. (temp. Maj.) E. C. Fortescue to relinquish the temp, rank of Maj. 24th June 1917.

Capt. (temp.) E. G- Coleman to be Capt., with precedence as from 5th Aug. 1914. 24th June 1917.

Capt. R. L. Abraham to have precedence as from 1st June 1916.

Lt. (temp.) (temp. Capt.) A. H. Brucker to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 14th Sept. 1914. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. H. Brucker to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) (temp .Capt.) W. T. Gray to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 14th Sept. 1914, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) W. T. Gray to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) (acting Maj.) H. J. Bennett to be Lt. (actg. Maj.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (actg. Maj.) H. J. Bennett to be Capt. (actg. Maj.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916, next below Capt. A. K. Gibson. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) (temp. Capt.) H. N. Daven-port to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) H. N. Davenport to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, next below Capt. H. J. Bennett. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) (temp. Capt.) R. F. Cuthbert to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain Adjt. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) R. F. Cuthbert to be Capt., with precedence as from let June 1916, next below Capt. H. N. Davenport, and to remain Adjt. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) H. J. Deacon to be Capt., with; precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. J. G. Stockton to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) W. A. Wayman to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) G. A. H. Robinson to be Lt., with precedence as from 4th Nov. 1915, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. K. Gibson to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) R. F. R. P. Boyle to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June- 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. C. S. W. Marcon to be Capt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) H. T. T. Harris to be Capt., with precedence as from 11th June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp.) H. J. Inder to be Lt., with precedence as from 26th Nov. 1916, next below Lt. R. N. C. Hunt. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) E. E. Bridges to have precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain Adjt. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) E. E. Bridges to relin- quish temp, rank of Capt. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (acting Capt.) K. E. Brown to be Lt. (acting Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.} G. H. Greenwell to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) G. H. Greenwell to relinquish temp, rank of Capt. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. N. Andrews to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. N. Andrews to relinquish temp, rank of Capt. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) W. D. Scott to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th; June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) M. C. Cooper to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. C. R. Parsons to be Lt., with pre- cedence as from let June 1916. 24th June- 1917.

2nd Lt. M. Strang to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) T. R. Fortescue to be- Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) J. L. Etty to beLt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. A. W. Proctor to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. J. G. Mitchell to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) C. C. Craig to be L t., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. S. L. Judson to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain- seconded. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp.Lt.) C.R.Mason to be Lt., with precedence as from fst June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd L.t. J. C. Coombes to be L t., with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and to remain seconded. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) G. R. Wood to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) G. R. Wood to relinquish temp, rank of Capt. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. S. Hunt to be Lt. (temp. Capt.), with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

Lt. (temp. Capt.) A. S. Hunt to relinquish temp, rank of Capt. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) H. O. Stockton to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) J. C. B. Gamlen to be Lt., with precedence as from 1st June 1916. •24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) G. H. Stevenson to be Lt., with precedence as from 14th July 1916. -24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) C. L. Stainer to be L t., with precedence as from 23rd July 1916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) G. H. G. Shepherd to be Lt., with precedence as from 14th Aug. T916. 24th June 1917.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) R. N. C. Hunt to be Lt., with precedence as from 26th Nov. 1916. 24th June 1917

The undermentioned officers relinquish their temp rank. 24th June 1917: —

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) W . J. L. Wallace.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) J. G. R. Miller, and to remain seconded.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) E. E. Smith.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) W. H. Enoch.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) H. H. Wrong.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) it. R. Searby.

2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) W. T. Loveday.

2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) J. G. Eldridge.

SECOND LIEUTENANT G. A. ROWLERSON, M.C.

UK, British Officer Prisoners of War, 1914-1918

Name: G A Rowlerson
Rank: 2/Lt.
Regiment: 4th Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Lig
Date Missing: 13 Sep 1918
Repatriation Date: 13 Dec 1918
Record Number: 2920
Section: Western Theatre of Operations.

1918, AUGUST 7th – ATTACK AND CAPTURE OF TRENCHES NEAR MERVILLE. SEARGENT S. J. RAVENSCROFT EARNS THE D.C.M.

Nieppe Forest  7th August 1918 Captain G. K. Rose, M.C.

Nieppe Forest
7th August 1918
Captain G. K. Rose, M.C.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

At 7 p.m. on August 7 A and B Companies attacked and captured the trenches opposite to them, causing the enemy to retire behind the Plate Becque, a stream as wide as the Cherwell at Islip but far less attractive. We had a dozen casualties in this attack, which was rewarded by half as many German prisoners and a machine-gun. Sergeant Ravenscroft, of B Company, for an able exploit during the advance, received the D.C.M.

Citation of the Distinguished Conduct Medal

 203251 Cpl. (L/Sjt) S. J. RAVENSCROFT (Slough)

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Without artillery assistance he led his platoon most skillfully and with complete success against an enemy trench, capturing the garrison, besides taking a machine gun. His platoon only suffered two casualties. He displayed the greatest gallantry and ability to command. (30.10.18)

At 7 p.m. A. and B Companies carried out a successful attack on the German front line between the Hazebrouck-Merville road and Bonar Farm. About 12 casualties occurred, but the companies captured 4 prisoners and a machine gun. Total casualties in the Battalion: 2 men killed, 2nd Lieut. A. R. Moore and 12 men wounded.

KILLED IN ACTION AUGUST 7th 1918

265598 Lance Corporal Richard Baldwin

34413 Private Reginald Richard Holloway

1917, MAY 24th – AT DUISANS AND A CHANGE OF COMMAND AS LIEUTENANT-COLONEL ROBERT BELLAMY MOVES ON

Lieut.-Colonel Bellamy relinquished the command of the Battalion, to take command of the Divisional Training School,

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

 During this move Colonel Bellamy, who had commanded us since August, 1916, left the Battalion. He shortly afterwards succeeded to the command of the 2nd Royal Sussex, his former regiment. A man of tact and ripe experience, he had done much to improve the Battalion during his stay. He lacked few, if any, of the best qualities of a Regular officer. His steady discipline, sure purpose, and soldierly outlook, had made him at once Commanding Officer, counsellor and friend. Latterly he had been somewhat vexed by illness, but had refused to allow his activity to be handicapped thereby. His stay had not coincided with the brightest nor least difficult epochs in the Battalion’s history, for which reason, since he was not unduly flattered by fortune, his merit deserves recognition.

1917, MAY 26th – AT DUISANS TRAINING AND JOINED BY ITS NEW COMMANDER, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL H. E. DE R. WETHERALL, D.S.O., MC

WetherallOn the 26th Lieut.-Colonel H. E. de R. Wetherall, M.C. (Gloucestershire Regiment), joined the Battalion on appointment to command.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

Colonel Bellamy’s successor, H. de R. Wetherall, was a young man whom ability and leadership had already lifted to distinction in his regiment and placed in command of an important military school. From now onwards he is the outstanding figure in the Battalion’s history. In the new Colonel a quick brain was linked with vigorous physique. In spite of his Regular training, Wetherall could appreciate and himself possessed to no small degree the peculiar virtues of the temporary officer, who based his methods on common sense and actual experience in the war rather than servile obedience to red tape and ‘Regulations.’ He had studied during the war as well as before it, with the result that military tradition–his regiment was the Gloucestershire–and his long service in the field combined to fit him for command of our Battalion.

1917, APRIL 27th – PREPARING FOR THE RAID NEAR FAYET, ST. QUENTIN

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

Enemy’s artillery active; 4 men wounded.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920

All this made April 27 a vexatious day. During the early part of the night men from my company had to carry rations to the front line companies. At midnight, while resting in a wretched lean-to in the sunken road, I had tidings that Corporal Viggers and several others had been hit by a shell, which destroyed all C Company’s rations. Of these casualties there was a man whose name I forget, who insisted on going, not back to hospital, but into the raid a few hours afterwards. He went, and was wounded again. It is a privilege to place on record the valorous conduct of this un-named soldier.

While I was receiving the serious news which deprived me of a valuable leader and several picked men, a shell pitched a few yards from the spot I occupied. The light went out, and I was half covered with dust and rubbish. To move was second nature. Followed by Taylor I ‘moved’ 100 yards down the road to the rest of my company. My kit and maps were later rescued from the dirt and brought to my new position. Company Headquarters should be mobile, and on occasions like these were volatile.

Died of Wounds 27th April 1917

203431 Private Albert Ernest Parton  (Formerly 2792, Royal Bucks Hussars)

 

1917, APRIL 26th – BEING BRIEFED FOR A RAID AND RELIEVING THE 2/1st BUCKS NEAR FAYET

By G. K. Rose

By G. K. Rose

The Battalion relieved the 2/1st Bucks in the front line during the night; H.Q. at Fayet; 4 men wounded.

 From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920

 The 184th Brigade had been warned to carry out an ‘enterprise’ against the enemy. During the morning of April 26 I was sent for by the Colonel. I found Headquarters in their new position, an oblong greenhouse over whose frame, destitute of glass, was stretched a large ‘trench shelter.’ They had passed a shell-ridden night. Bennett just now had narrowly eluded a 5.9. This morning shells were falling as usual in Holnon, and pieces occasionally came humming down to earth close by. I listened to the plan of a large raid which with two companies I was soon to perform. Moore was here to outline the scheme and also Colonel Cotton of the R.F.A., whose guns were to support the operation.

The Battalion was mostly fortunate in the opportunity of its reliefs. One always prayed that the time spent in moving up and changing places with troops in the front line would coincide with a period quiet in regard to shelling. One hoped still more that no hostile attack would clash with the relief.

Such prayers and hopes on April 26, when a quiet, easy relief was specially desired, came near to being falsified. At dusk, just as our companies were starting towards Fayet, the enemy commenced an operation against Cepy Farm, a ruined building near the front line, predestined by its position to be an object of contention. The attack was ably dealt with by Tubbs’ company of the Bucks and had proved abortive for the enemy. The circumstance was accompanied by much erratic shelling from both sides. Orders to stand-to were issued rather broadcast, and as the relief was now in progress a degree of confusion resulted everywhere. The destination of my company and half of C was the sunken road leading down into Fayet, but that I found already crowded with troops. Almost all units of the Brigade seemed to be trying to relieve or support each other, and the front line itself was in quite a ferment, nobody actually knowing what the enemy had done, was doing, or was expected to do. Under these conditions it became impossible for me to send patrols to learn the ground from which the impending raid was to be launched. It happened, in fact, that when the time to move forward had arrived, I alone of all the five platoons about to be engaged knew the route to the ‘position of assembly,’ that is to say, the place where the attacking troops were to collect immediately before the raid. That most severe risk–for had I been a casualty the entire enterprise would have miscarried—was owing partly to the accident of the confused relief, but more to the short notice at which the work was to be carried out. Instead of that thorough reconnaissance which was so desirable I had to be content with a visit, shared by my officers and a few N.C.O.’s, to an advanced observation post from which a view was possible of those trenches and woods we were under orders to raid.

The sunken road proved anything but a pleasant waiting place. The shelling of Fayet–fresh-scattered bricks across whose roads showed it an unhealthy place–was now taken up in earnest by the enemy. Partly perhaps from their own affection for such places, but more probably because it was our most likely route to reach the village, the Germans seldom allowed an hour to pass without sending several salvoes of 5.9s into the sunken road. My men were densely packed in holes under the banks. I was expecting large supplies of flares and bombs and all those things one carried on a raid, and had, of course, orders and explanations of their duties to give to many different parties.

Died  of Wounds April 26th 1917

 33451 Private James Owen Wooster

1917, APRIL 22nd – 25th – IN SUPPORT AND WORKING ON LINE OF RESISTANCE

Remained at Holnon in support, working on the line of resistance. Two men wounded.

From The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, by Captain G. K. Rose M.C. (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1920)

 In Holnon the life was a new sample of unpleasantness. Of accommodation, save for a few low walls and half-roofed cellars, there

was no trace. What Holnon lacked in billets it received in shells. With intervals–possibly only those of German mealtimes–during the day and nearly throughout the night, 5.9s and 4.2s were throwing up the brick-dust, till it seemed reasonable to ask why in wonder’s name the Battalion or any living soul was kept in Holnon. After a few bad nights with little sleep and some close shells, Headquarters moved from their shed, hard by a mound, to a dismantled greenhouse further back. It was a nasty time. The German aeroplanes were very active….

That faint patter of machine-gun fire which comes from aeroplanes circling overhead ends in the descent of one of them. At first it seems to come down normally, yet with a sort of pilot-light twinkling at its head; but, when a hundred feet or so from earth, see it burst into a sheet of flame and shrivel up upon the ground in a column of dark smoke!

I had my company in shelters under a bank, clear of the village but immediately in front of a battery of 18-pounder guns, whose incessant firing, added to the evil whistle of the German shells, deprived the nights of comfortable sleep. But passive experiences were due to give place to active. Events of moment were in store.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: