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

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

1917, AUGUST 22nd – CAPTURE OF POND FARM

Attack Aug 22 1917

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

On the following night Companies assembled for the attack. Neither the starting place nor the objectives for this are easily described by reference to surrounding villages. The nearest was St. Julien. The operation orders for the attack of August 22 assigned as objective to the Oxfords a road running across the Hanebeck and referred to as the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The 48th Division on the left and the 15th on the right were to co-operate with the 184th Brigade in the attack.

Shortly before 5 the bombardment started. In the advance behind the creeping barrage put down by our guns, of which an enormous concentration was present on the front, C, D and A Companies (from right to left) provided the first waves, while B Company followed to support the flanks. The Berks came afterwards as ‘moppers up.’ Half-an-hour after the advance started D, B and A Companies were digging-in 150 yards west of the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road. The losses of these companies in going over had not been heavy, but, as so often happens, casualties occurred directly the objective had been duly reached. In the case of C Company, on the right, but little progress had been made. Pond Farm, a concrete stronghold, to capture which a few nights previously an unsuccessful sally had been made, had proved too serious an obstacle. Not till the following night was it reduced, and during the whole of August 22 it remained a troublesome feature in the situation.

Before the line reached could be consolidated or they could act to defeat the enemy’s tactics, our men found themselves the victims of sniping and machine-gun fire from Schuler Farm, which was not taken and to which parties of reinforcements to the enemy now came. More dangerous still was an old gun-pit which lay behind the left flank. The capture of this had been assigned to the 48th Division, but as a measure of abundant caution Colonel Wetherall had detailed a special Berks platoon to tackle it. This platoon, assisted by some Oxfords on the scene, captured the gun-pit and nearly seventy prisoners, but failed to garrison it. A party of the enemy found their way back and were soon firing into our men from behind. During the early stages of consolidation, when personal example and direction were required, John Stockton, Scott, and Gascoyne were all killed by snipers or machine-gun fire. Scott had been hit already in the advance and behaved finely in refusing aid until he had despatched a message to Headquarters. While he was doing so three or four bullets struck him simultaneously and he died.

Throughout the 22nd no actual counter-attack nor organised bombardment by the enemy took place, but much sniping and machine-gun fire continued, making it almost impossible to move about. Our loss in Lewis-gunners was particularly heavy.

Callender, the acting company commander of A Company, had been killed before the attack commenced, and Sergeant-Major Cairns was now the mainstay of that company, whose men were thoroughly mixed up with B. Upon the left the 48th Division had failed to reach Winnipeg, with the result that this flank of A and B Companies was quite in the air. On the Battalion’s right the failure of C Company, in which Brucker had been wounded, to pass Pond Farm left the flank of D Company exposed and unsupported. But the position won was kept. Ground to which the advance had been carried with cost would not be lightly given up. Moberly, Company Sergeant-Major Cairns, and Guest -the latter by volunteering in daylight to run the gauntlet of the German snipers back to Headquarters-greatly distinguished themselves in the task of maintaining this exposed position during the night of August 22 and throughout August 23. Some of our men had to remain in shell-holes unsupported and shot at from several directions for over fifty hours”.

At 4.45 a.m. the Battalion attacked on a front of 750 yards, the objective being about 900 yards distant. On our left were the l/5th R. Warwicks, and the 2/1st Bucks on the right, with five platoons of the R. Berks acting as moppers-up. The assembly, which was carried out unknown to the enemy, was on a tape line, laid down in advance of our line by 2nd Lieut. Robinson the previous night. The disposition of companies from left to right was A, D, C in front line, and B in support. The Battalion advanced under our artillery barrage, and A and D Companies, closely followed by two platoons of B, reached their objective and consolidated. C Company on the right, with a platoon of B in support, were held up owing to the failure of the mopping-up platoon to take Pond Farm. Owing to casualties among senior officers, the front-line command devolved on 2nd Lieut. Moberly, with whom were 2nd Lieut. Coombes (A) and 2nd Lieut. Guest (D). The battalion on our left was unable to hold its objective, and consequently both flanks of the front line were unprotected; but 2nd Lieut. Moberly decided to hold on, and arranged to provide such protection as was possible. At 4 p.m., with the assistance of two platoons of the 2/5th Glosters, we assaulted and captured Pond Farm.

KILLED IN ACTION AUGUST 22nd 1917

Captain J. G. Stockton.

Lieut. WT. D. Scott. 2nd

Lieut. W. E. Gascoyne

201057 Sergeant Alfred Mobey

202295 Lance Sergeant Albert Barnes

200871 Corporal Albert Margetts

200978 Corporal James William Smith

202440 Lance Corporal Harold William Percival Bolt (Born Sydney Australia)

201270 Lance Corporal Eric George Cheasley

200689 Lance Corporal Frederick Edginton

267405 Lance Corporal William Merrith

201458 Lance Corporal Benjamin Arthur Tyler

201230 Private Harold Bolton

203189 Private Dennis Bush

240310 Private William James Callow

201694 Private Aubrey Castle

14783 Private Albert Thomas Childs

201655 Private William Walter Cox

24484 Private Herbert Charles Date (Formerly 141415 R.F.A.)

202885 Private William Dennis

203867 Private Albert John Drewitt

285020 Private Arthur Henry Drewitt

202393 Private Joseph Eversden

240350 Private James Charles Ferriman

202151 Private Frank Herbert Gardiner

203844 Private William Guess

201358 Private Lewis Heath

266895 Private Edward George Hoare

203475 Private Arthur James Hughes (Formerly 2694, R. Bucks Hussars)

201435 Private Harold Hughes

201864 Private Henry Impey

200931 Private Howard Stanley May

29025 Private George Albert Missen

240409 Private Leve Mitchell

202701 Private George Payne

202768 Private Christopher Piekton

203787 Private William Richard Pitson

22534 Private Jasper Quincey Plumb

204409 Private Ernest William Rolfe

202554 Private Harold Rolph

202661 Private George Roper

201967 Private Ernest John Rose

204413 Private John Elford Soper (Formerly 3457, Berks Yoemanry)

203434 Private Robert John Stratford (Formerly 1794, R. Bucks Hussars)

203535 Private Ernest Walter Sutton (formerly 2777, R. Bucks Hussars)

203811 Private Alfred Fred Taylor

23717 Private Horace White

200270 Herbert Edward Wright

DIED OF WOUNDS AUGUST 22nd 1917

32542 Lance Corporal Arthur Stamper (Formerly 3427, Notts and Derby Regt.)

Wounded: Captain A. H. Brucker. 2nd Lieut. T. A. Hill. 2nd Lieut. H. G. Turrell. 2nd Lieut. F. Dawson-Smith 2nd Lieut. T. W. P. Hawker And 74 other ranks.

Missing: 44 other ranks (3 of whom were afterwards reported to be prisoners, the remainder presumed to have been killed).

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

The attack, in which the Bucks had successfully co-operated on the right of our advance, earned credit for the Brigade and the Battalion. It had been, from a fighting standpoint, a military success. But from the strategical aspect the operations showed by their conclusion that the error had been made of nibbling with weak forces at objectives which could only have been captured and secured by strong. Moreover, the result suggested that the objectives had been made on this occasion for the attack rather than the attack for the objectives. The 184th Brigade had played the part assigned to it completely and with credit, but what had been gained by it with heavy loss was in fact given up by its successors almost at once. Withdrawal from the Kansas trenches became an obvious corollary to the German omission to counter-attack against them. Ground not in dispute ’twas not worth casualties to hold. On the Battalion’s front Pond Farm, a small concrete stronghold, remained the sole fruit of the attack of August 22. It was after the 61st Division had been withdrawn, wasted in stationary war, that what success could be associated with this third battle of Ypres commenced. Judged by its efforts, the 61st was ill paid in results.

TO 1917, AUGUST 23rd

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