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

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

Archive for the category “April 1917”

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)

 

Advertisements

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.

1917, APRIL 21st – IN HOLNON, SHELLED DURING THE NIGHT

St Quentin on Fire During German Retreat,  8.15pm 21 April 1917 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A sketch view across a flat landscape with a tree in the centre foreground, looking towards the buildings of Saint-Quentin ablaze after being set on fire by retreating German forces. A large cloud of smoke drifts skywards.

St Quentin on Fire During German Retreat,
8.15pm 21 April 1917
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketch view across a flat landscape with a tree in the centre foreground, looking towards the buildings of Saint-Quentin ablaze after being set on fire by retreating German forces. A large cloud of smoke drifts skywards.

Working on the line of resistance. Holnon was shelled during the night. Battalion H.Q. were driven out during the early hours of the morning.

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 Battalion spent a week at Holnon village. A line of trenches linking up ‘strong points’ had been designed to guard the ridge which overlooked Fayet and St. Quentin. From Selency Château, whose thickets fringed the sky-line, on the right, to the high-perched windmill above Maissemy on the left, work to consolidate this system had commenced. It remained for us to excavate the chalk trenches deeper and erect wire. The demand for that material exceeded the supply, and it was necessary to salve old German stores. Some excellent coils I found–of American manufacture. Pickets were improvised. Thus liberated by the amateur assortment of our tools from the irksome tyranny of army wiring circulars, we set about the work and soon put up some of the best wire of my experience.

1917, APRIL 20th – MOVED UP TO HOLNON AND RELIEVED THE 16th NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS (32nd DIVISION)

St Quentin on Fire During German Retreat,  8.15pm 21 April 1917 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A sketch view across a flat landscape with a tree in the centre foreground, looking towards the buildings of Saint-Quentin ablaze after being set on fire by retreating German forces. A large cloud of smoke drifts skywards.

St Quentin on Fire During German Retreat,
8.15pm 21 April 1917
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketch view across a flat landscape with a tree in the centre foreground, looking towards the buildings of Saint-Quentin ablaze after being set on fire by retreating German forces. A large cloud of smoke drifts skywards.

The Battalion moved up to Holnon, and relieved the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers (32nd Division.) in the support line, left sub-section; A Company in close support to the 2/5th Glosters.

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

It was hard to believe that any lofty eminence which overlooked our lines was not in constant use by the enemy for observation. The iron towers at Loos, the spire of Calonne, even the crazy relics of the church at Puisieux at different times contributed this uneasy feeling to the denizens of our trenches. But surely never was the sense of being spied on more justified than near St. Quentin, whose tall cathedral raised itself higher than all the roofs of the town and higher, too, than the ridges surrounding it for many miles.

On April 20, 1917, a German observer from the cathedral belfry could have seen the divisional relief which brought the 61st Division back to the line. All day small parties were moving in the forward zone, while further back larger ones crossed and re-crossed the ridge ‘twixt Holnon and Fayet, and in rear again, along the road through Savy to Germaine, columns of Infantry in fours followed by horses, vehicles, and smoking cooker chimneys, were passing one another, some coming, others going back. Those coming made a left-handed turn at Savy, hugged the line of single railway as far as a crucifix at a cross-roads, and were then lost to distinct view amid the abject ruins of Holnon. Those going were the 32nd Division, whose march carried them out of the cathedral’s eye or observation by German balloons.

Among the new arrivals were the 2/4th Oxfords, of whom all companies, followed until the end by cookers and Lewis-gun limbers, disposed themselves in or around Fayet, on whose north side stood a stone monument commemorative of local fighting in the Franco-Prussian War. Near to this monument was found a deep sunken road, broken with two huge craters. It was A Company’s position as support to the Gloucesters, who went into the line.

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

1917, APRIL 16th – IN HOMBLEUX IN REST BILLETS AND UNDERGOING TRAINING

Hombleaux near Ham (sketch from Church Tower),  April 16th 1917 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A sketched view across the rooftops of a small French town seen from the church tower, with the roof and small turret of the church in the foreground. Beyond are the roofs of houses, and then open countryside. There is a small study of a weather...

Hombleaux near Ham (sketch from Church Tower),
April 16th 1917
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketched view across the rooftops of a small French town seen from the church tower, with the roof and small turret of the church in the foreground. Beyond are the roofs of houses, and then open countryside. There is a small study of a weather…

1917, APRIL 11th – 61st RELIEVED AND MOVED BACK TO THE NESLE AREA. THE 2/4th OXFORDS MARCHED TO HOMBLEUX

Hombleaux near Ham (sketch from Church Tower),  April 16th 1917 Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)  A sketched view across the rooftops of a small French town seen from the church tower, with the roof and small turret of the church in the foreground. Beyond are the roofs of houses, and then open countryside. There is a small study of a weather...

Hombleaux near Ham (sketch from Church Tower),
April 16th 1917
Rose, Geoffrey K (MC)
A sketched view across the rooftops of a small French town seen from the church tower, with the roof and small turret of the church in the foreground. Beyond are the roofs of houses, and then open countryside. There is a small study of a weather vane in the bottom left of the composition

 

To Hombleux, where remained in rest billets, undergoing training until 19th, on which date the Battalion marched to reserve billets at Germaine.

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 61st Division was relieved on April 11 and moved back to the Nesle area. The 2/4th Oxfords marched to Hombleux, a village where the enemy had left the church and a few houses standing.

1917, APRIL 5th – FRONT-LINE EAST OF SOYECOURT

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

Enemy’s artillery less active; 1 man 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)

On the next night a battalion of Sherwood Foresters relieved D Company, which returned to its wood, but B and C Companies remained holding the line. John Stockton, who now commanded B, was ill, but refused to leave the trenches and carried on in a most determined manner under shocking weather conditions. A new officer, Allden, in my company also proved his worth about this time. Events of some sort were of hourly occurrence. The 2/5th Gloucesters held the line on the Battalion’s right, near the Omignon river. One night, after a heavy bombardment with 4.2s, the Germans

1917, APRIL 4th – FRONT-LINE EAST OF SOYECOURT

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

 Snowing all day. The front posts were heavily shelled during the morning; 1 killed, 2 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 the early morning of April 4 the 59th Division, which was operating on the Battalion’s left, attacked Le Vergier. Fighting continued till noon, but the village was not taken. The 59th lost heavily. As they formed up for their advance–which was for some 1,000 yards across the open and exposed to view–behind the line the Battalion was holding, considerable enemy fire was brought down upon us and I lost Sergeant Watkins, wounded in the arm, and several other casualties. It snowed nearly all day. In the shallow trenches, which were ill-sited both for drainage and concealment from the enemy, life was miserable. 

Killed in Action 4th April 1917

201985 Private George Loveridge (Likely to have been D Company)

Died of Wounds 4th April 1917

201448 Private Creswick Franklin

1917, APRIL 3rd – RELIEVED 2/1st BUCKS EAST OF SOYECOURT

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

Moved up to the line and relieved the 2/1st Bucks in the sector east of Soyecourt;

D Company in front-line posts;

C in close support;

B at railway embankment at Montolu Wood;

A and Battalion H.Q. at Soyecourt.

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 midnight, April 3/4, the Battalion relieved the Bucks. B, C, and D Companies shared the new outpost line. Headquarters and A Company went to Soyécourt. The relief, the first of its kind, was difficult. In my own front a small brushwood copse was reputed to contain a sentry post. The ground was dotted with small copses which the darkness made indistinguishable, and no report of this post’s relief was ever made. When dawn was breaking in the sky, Sergeant Watkins, accompanied by the Bucks guides, returned to say that no sentry group nor post in any copse could be found. The most likely copse was then garrisoned and the night’s mystery and labour ceased.

Further advance was evidently in store. The smoke of burning villages still mounted the sky. At night a glow showed where a great fire in St. Quentin was ablaze. The weather now changed for the worse. Hail, rain and snow prevailed alternately. A fierce wind blew. Winter conditions were repeated in the outpost line, where no shelter other than tarpaulins rigged across the shallow trenches existed. Nor was the artillery inactive. As the enemy’s resistance stiffened, shells commenced to fall on fields yet unscarred by trench or shell-hole. Better ammunition seemed to be in use–or was it a month’s holiday from shells that made it seem so?–and more subtlety was shown by German gunners in their choice of targets. Our casualties, though not numerous, proved that the war, in most of its old incidents, had been resumed.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: