Relieving the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, trenches at Deniecourt, 23rd/24th February 1917
The following details are extracted from a great Web site: http://www.purley.eu/H142.htm. The site details the operations of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, but within it is contained a wide range of information on the 184th Brigade and the Battalions that made up the Brigade.
The 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment was holding trenches at Deniecourt, S.W. of Peronne
They were relieved by the 2/4th Oxfords on the 24th February 1917.
“SECRET Copy No 11
2/4th Bn, Royal Berks Regt
Order No 59 February 22. 1917
1. The Battn will be relieved by 4/OXFORDS on night of 23/24th inst and move to RAINECOURT. Relief to be completed by 6.0 AM.
2.The Order of Relief will be as under:-
OXFORDS BERKS ROUTE
D Coy relieve B Coy via VALET – BC4
A Coy “ A Coy “ BC3
C Coy “ C Coy “ VALET – BC4
B Coy “ D Coy “ OVERLAND TO 908
HQ Coy “ HQ Coy “ VALET
3. BERKS “B” Coy will remain in position until OXFORDS “C” Coy is in the trench and will then move out, followed by BERKS
“C” Coy via BC4.
4. “A” Coy will move out by BC3 and VALET on completion of relief.
5. East of the line FOUCAUCOURT – HERLEVILLE of distance of 200 yds between platoons will be maintained and 200 yds between Coys when West of that line.
6. Each Coy will send 1 Guide per platoon to B BROM, West Exit of ESTREES at 6.0pm tomorrow. These guides must be
reliable men and should reconnoitre the route during the day.
C R Allen Capt & A/Adjutant
The account below details the preparation for the Relief by officers of the 2/4th Oxfords:
“It is morning of February 22, 1917. Colonel Bellamy and his four company commanders are setting out to reconnoitre the new front line. Guides are to meet us at Deniecourt Chateau, a heap of chalk slabs and old bricks, beneath which are Brigade Headquarters. To reach this rendezvous we pass through Foucaucourt and then along a corduroy road through Deniecourt Wood to the village of that name. The wood has been fought through and but few branches remain on the trees, whose trunks, like so many untidy telegraph poles, rise to various heights from the upheaval of shell holes and undergrowth. Dismal surroundings on a dismal morning, for the frost has relented for
several days and already sides of trenches are collapsing (flop go the chunks into the water!) and on top the ground is loading one’s boots at every step.
We change into gumboots in an old cellar and our journey commences. See the Colonel, Cuthbert, Marcon, Brown, Stockton, Robinson and myself lead off down a communication trench behind a guide, pledged to take us to the Berks Headquarters. The going is desperate water up to our knees; however, each hundred yards brings our goal nearer, and it can hardly be like this all the way. We come to a trench junction, and our guide turns left-handed; presently another the guide knows the way and again turns to the left. Confound the mud ! If we do not get there soon we shall never be home for lunch …. but we do not get there soon. The guide, always protesting that he knows the way, has led us in a circle and here we are whence we started an hour ago !
After such well-meaning mockery of our efforts, a route ‘over the top’ is tried. Soon we are outside Battalion Headquarters of the Berks. Whilst we are there, German gas shelling starts a few rounds of phosgene and helmets require to be adjusted. It is not everybody’s helmet that fits, this being the first real occasion on which some officers have worn them. There is some laughing to
see the strictest censor of a gas helmet (or its absence) in difficulties with his own, when the moment for its adjustment has arrived.
The company commanders duly separate to go up to their own sections of the front. They see the ‘ posts,’ or any of them that can be visited in daylight, make notes of local details affecting the relief, and so home independently.”
“On the afternoon of February 23, we marched up to relieve the Berks. Near Foucaucourt the cookers gave us tea. There also we changed into gumboots. Guides met us at Estrees cross-roads,
a trysting place possible only when dusk had fallen, and the lugubrious procession started along a tramway track among” whose iron sleepers the men floundered considerably, partly from their precaution of choosing gumboots several sizes too large.
On this occasion the usual stoppages and checks were multiplied by a brisk artillery ‘ strafe ‘ upon the front, accompanied by all manner of coloured lights and rockets. The noise soon dying down we were able to continue a bad journey with men frequently becoming stuck and a few lost. The relief was not over until nearly dawn, by when the last Berks had left and our worst stragglers been collected.”