The Attack On Pond Farm and Other Strong Posts, 21st -24th August 1917
Please check out http://pondfarm.wimme.net/en/introduction. The link was kindly provided by Stijn Butaye.
A very good German Web site: www.flanderland.de has a page dedicated to Pond Farm with both pictures from 1917 and some recent photographs of the bunker.
2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment
Story of the 2/5th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment 1914-1918
ed by A.F.Barnes
Format: 2003 N&M Press reprint (original pub 1930) 192pp with 39 b/w photos and 12 maps.
This is essential reading for anyone interested in the 2/5th Gloucester Regiment and the other battalions that made up the 184th (2nd South Midland) Brigade
“The Battalion moved first Buysscheure area and then to the Wattou area, and on August 21st it went up the line to support trenches in Warwick Farm, east of the big Wieltje Dugout which was Brigade Headquarters and advanced Field Ambulance dressing station.
On August 22nd the Brigade attacked with the Oxfords on the left and the Bucks on the right. The Glosters were in support. At the last moment, the orders for the Glosters were altered and two Companies were ordered to move into position at zero hour behind the Oxfords and two behind the Bucks. Headquarters was at Call Reserve, a big German concrete that had been captured. The Oxfords were commanded by Lt.-Col. R. H. Wetherall, a young regular officer of the Gloucester Regiment, the Bucks by a very cheery officer of the Black Watch Territorials, by the name of Lt.-Col. J. Muir.
Both Battalions made a magnificent advance, which carried them right forward almost to their limits. But as so often happened, the losses were so great that it was impossible to hold the farthest objectives, and they were pushed back fighting hard. Soon D Company was dispatched to reinforce the left, and B Company the right. While moving up with D Company, gallant Seymour Tubbs was killed while leading his men.
The expression, “he was loved by everyone” became rather the convention of the day; but in the case of Capt. Tubbs, it was literally true, because he possessed in an unusual degree the gift for friendship. Wherever he was there radiated a warmth of happy comradeship; a capable and gallant officer, a perfect sportsman, a delightful companion, he could ill be spared.
In the centre of the Oxfords’ advance was a grim and giant fortress called Pond Farm, manned by fifty picked German machine-gunners with five guns. This fortress had resisted the assaults of no less than five divisions in previous fighting. At 12 noon, two platoons attacked it after a hurricane bombardment. Two platoons from C company were then sent up, and these, with D Company, stormed the concrete fortress with great dash, killing or capturing its entire garrison. The losses were heavy: 2nd Lieutenants Davis and Blythe, and 16 other ranks were killed, and 2nd Lieut. Ross Jenkins and 51 other ranks were wounded and one other was missing.
During the night there was an unfortunate incident. The garrison was small and no other officer of the Glosters left, and one of another unit detailed to take command did not arrive. A fierce German counter-attack, launched at the right was beaten off by the Bucks with D Company, but swerving away, it swept on to the flank and rear of Pond Farm and recaptured it. It was a great pity, but the memory of the gallant attack which captured the fortress wipes out any small stain caused by its weak garrison losing it. Next day it was easily recaptured.
On the right flank D Company under command of Lieut. Johnston, was soon sent forward to support the bucks and detailed to hold and consolidate a line just west of Hill 35. The gallant Scotch officer, helped by his men performed deeds of valour: he consolidated his line, roped in stragglers from another Division and put them in position, extended his line to get into touch right and left, and beat off every counter-attack. His report to the Commanding Officer at Call Reserve, written under heavy shell fire in the open, was the most cheerful document ever penned. He was highly commended by Lt.-Col. Muir, and sent to Corps Headquarters to give an account of the fight. He was recommended for the D.S.O. and was awarded the M.C. He is perhaps best described as one who was just as happy in a fight as at a tea party surrounded by pretty girls. The Battalion was relieved by the 2/6th Glosters and moved to Red Rose Camp for refitting.”
The 2/1st Bucks
The following is extracted from:
“Citizen Soldiers of Buckinghamshire 1795-1926″ by Major General J. C. Swann
On the 15th August the Battalion (2/1st Bucks) moved to Abeele and on the 18th to Goldfish Chateau Camp near Ypres. On the evening of the 20th they advanced to the support line just forward of Wieltje, having many casualties on the way from shell fire. After dark they went into the line in the Pommern Castle sector, Headquarters at Uhlan Farm, “C” Company on the left, “B” on the right (front line), “D” left support, “A” right support. The next day was spent in preparations for the attack on the 22nd.
Of the 61st Division the 184th Brigade was told off for the attack, having the 44th Infantry Brigade, 15th Division, on their right, and the 143rd Brigade, 48th Division, on their left. The Bucks were to make the attack on the right, the Oxfords on the left of the Brigade, each Battalion taking a frontage of approximately 700 yards.
The Bucks were to advance with two Companies forming the first and second waves, and two Companies forming the third and fourth; the Oxfords were to attack with three Companies forming the first and second and one Company the third wave. Eight platoons of the Royal Berks were to be attached to the Bucks as “moppers-up’ and five to the Oxfords. The Glosters and one Battalion of the 183rd Brigade were in Brigade reserve. The final objective was the position on the Kansas Cross—Winnipeg Road.
The “moppers-up” were to deal with the strong posts at Somme, Aisne, Gunpits, Cross Cotts, Green House, Martha, Keir Farm, and various dug-outs, and to be ready to cover the flanks if necessary. This would enable the main attack to push forward to take the main position without delaying to clear the strong points in advance of it.
At 4.45 a.m. the Artillery put down the barrage and the waves advanced, disregarding the strong posts and pressing forward as close as possible to the barrage in accordance with the orders they had received. The “moppers-up,” in attempting to follow, suffered heavily in casualties from machine-gun and rifle fire, the garrisons of the posts behind their concrete walls put up a stubborn resistance. The Somme and Aisne Farms were taken, but the latter retaken almost at once by the enemy. Pond Farm in front of the Oxfords on the left and Gallipoli in front of the 7th Cameron Highlanders on the right remained in the possession of the enemy.
The position of the advancing waves of the Bucks became more and more serious, but still they pressed on, and some at least reached their objective, though exposed to fire from front, flanks, and rear, and entirely cut off from all communication. Meanwhile a company of the 2/5th Gloucesters, under Second Lieutenant Johnston, with the few remaining men available with the Battalion, consolidated a line of shell-holes for the defence of Somme Farm that had been won by a platoon of the Berks, only three men of which remained to follow Second Lieutenant St. Leger into the post and to deal with the 14 survivors of the garrison. Three counter-attacks were made on the newly consolidated line, but were caught by the fire of our Artillery, and easily repulsed by the Infantry. The enemy snipers were much in evidence throughout the day, any movement that might suggest a runner with information for Headquarters attracted their special attention; even stretcher-bearers and wounded crawling painfully back were not spared.
At 4 p.m., with the assistance of two platoons of the 2/5th Gloucesters, the Oxfords finally assaulted and captured Pond Farm. This much relieved the pressure on the left of the Bucks, and they were able to straighten out the line. A party was sent forward to take the gun-pits, but found them deserted by the enemy and giving shelter to many of the wounded of the Battalion.
The losses were found to have been very heavy 13 officers and 637 other ranks went into action, 11 officers and 338 other ranks were reported as casualties.
Killed: Second Lieutenant C. R. Tyson and 46 other ranks.
Died of wounds: Captain J. E. S. Wilson, R.A.M.C., Second Lieutenants Gibson and W. R. Gill.
Wounded: Captain G. C. Stevens, Second Lieutenants T. S. Markham, G. P. Steed, and W. H. Petrie, and 156 other ranks.
Missing: Captain H. R. Foster, Second Lieutenants H. E. Molloy and W. E. Rolfe (presumed dead), and 122 other ranks.
Of the missing 19 were afterwards traced as prisoners of war, and 103 presumed killed. Nine of the prisoners were wounded when captured. At night the Battalion was relieved by the 2/7th Worcesters. The Battalion returned to their old bivouac at Goldfish Chateau, a sad return. Except “A” Company, all were commanded by Sergeants. The men were in the last stage of exhaustion, the strongest Company had barely 80, the weakest just over 50 in the ranks.
After one night at Goldfish Chateau the Battalion moved back to Brandhoek.
2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment
War Diaries of the 2/4th Royal Berkshires
Tuesday 21st August 1917 Belgium, Trenches Wieltje
“The day was fairly quiet except for heavy shelling between 9am and 11am. In the evening the various platoons moved to their point of assembly for the following days attack. Casualties 1 OR killed, 13 OR wounded.”
Wednesday 22nd August 1917, Belgium, Trenches Wieltje
The 184th Infantry Brigade attacked the enemy defences from D14 c.6.7. to D7 c. 3.5 (Map FREZENBERG 1/10000 attached).
The 44th Brigade 15th Division attacked on the Right, and the 143rd Brigade 48th Division attacked on the Left.
Zero was at 4.45am August 22nd, an which hour the Infantry advanced and the Barrage commenced. The 2/1st Bucks Battalion, Ox and Bucks Light Infantry attacked on Right, the 2/4th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry attacked on the Left.
The 2/4th Royal Berks found 13 platoons to attack various Strong Points which were known to exist. They followed close behind the leading Infantry, and on nearing their Objectives, dashed through the leading waves and assaulted the Strong Points.
The various platoons were detailed as follows:-
Platoon Commander Objective
No 1 2/Lt A C L Hill Somme
No 4 2/Lt G W de St Legier Somme
No 2 2/Lt A K Glover Cross Cott
No 3 2/Lt C L B Kirkland Aisne House
No 5 2/Lt H W Jewell Schuler
No 6 2/Lt G A F Gilmor Pond Farm
No 13 2/Lt F A N Wilmot Pond Farm
No 7 2/Lt A E Saw Left flank guard for 2/4 Oxfords.
No 8 2/Lt F Exler Hindu
No 9 2/Lt W H Stevens Marth Ho
No 12 2/Lt A H Robinson MarthHo
No 10 2/Lt D Mackinnon Green Ho
No 11 2/Lt H S Griffin Gun positions near D13 central
The first Strong Point encountered was Pond Farm. This was attacked from both flanks, 2nd Lieut F A N Wilmot working in from the Right, and 2nd Lieut G A F Gilmor from the Left. Both these Officers were wounded before reaching the farm. Owing to heavy machine gun fire Sgt Shackleford, then in charge of No 13 platoon found he was unable to take the Farm, revelries these platoons kept the garrison of the Strong Point strongly engaged, thus enabling the assaulting waves and the platoons for the further Objectives to push forward without any serious trouble, Sgt Shackleford then reorganised his platoon and made a fresh attack on the Farm but on getting within 20 yards of his Objective he was again held up by very heavy machine gun fire. However he succeeded in surrounding the Farm, keeping the garrison fully occupied till late in the afternoon he joined two platoon of the 2/5th Glosters and helped to successfully assault and enter the Farm. There were 35 Prisoners taken by us at this Strong Point.
The next Strong Point encountered on the Left was Hindu, 2/Lt F Exler was wounded as soon as the Infantry advanced, but the platoon carried on and owing to the marshy state of the ground were unable to enter the Farm. However they succeeded in advancing beyond and surrounding the Strong Point, thus enabling the assaulting waves to push forward. Pte Pike of “A” coy having lost his own platoon succeeded in entering this Strong Point, and found it garrisoned by 19 Germans, 13 of whom were unwounded. He took all these prisoners, and himself remained there alone for two days guarding them until he was relieved by an Officer of the 2/6th Glosters.
The remaining Strong Point on the Left was Schuler. Despite the fact that the left Division was held up and that his flank was exposed 2nd Lieut H W Jewell pushed forward and stormed the Schuler Galleries, taking 2 Officers and 74 OR prisoners. These he dispatched to the rear. He then consolidated and held his post breaking up three local counter attacks. This post was almost isolated owing to the right flank falling back, but by great determination they held on for two days, till they were relieved by the 2/6th Glosters.
The first Strong Point encountered on the Right was Somme. On nearing this 2nd Lieut G W de St Legierpushed forward ahead of the leading waves and together with two men rushed through our own Barrage and entered this post from the rear, killing the whole of the garrison. He afterwards consolidated the position and broke up several local counter attacks and held his post until he was relieved two days later.
Owing to the 15th Division being held up, and very heavy flanking machine gun fire being directed on our troops from Hill 35 and Gallopoli, the attacks on Green House, Cross Cott and Martha House were unsuccessful but these platoons helped the 2/1st Bucks to form a line running roughly from Somme in rear of Aisne House close to the Gun Pits at D13 Central, on to SchulerGalleries. Three enemy Counter attacks were repulsed.
Tanks were employed, but were unsuccessful owing to the marshy state of the ground. The line was taken over on the night of the 23/24th by the 183rd Infantry Brigade and the Battalion marched back to a camp at Goldfish Chateau, the last platoon arriving about 6am. Casualties for the 22nd/23rd were as follows:-
7 Officers – 2nd Lieuts F A N Wilmot, GAF Gilmor, F Exler, C L B Kirkland, A K Glover, A H Robinson and AE Saw wounded.
2 Officers – 2nd Lieuts H S Griffin and D MacKinnon wounded and missing.
32 OR killed.
111 OR wounded.
25 OR wounded and missing.
54 OR missing.”
Friday 24th August 1917 Belgium, Goldfish Chateau
“The whole day was devoted to rest.”
Abeele: Their are some very good photographs of Abeele on a Web site dedicated to the Calgary Highlanders, 10th Battalion.