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

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

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 10th – MARCHED TO RESERVE BILLETS AT MONCHY-LAGACHE

Marched to reserve billets at Monchy-Lagache.

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

 Next morning many of us walked along the Holnon road to view St. Quentin, whose cathedral and factory chimneys were only visible between the storms. The town seemed undestroyed. The Germans were busy shelling its approaches. Salvoes of their 5.9s fell steadily, and black splashes of earth jumped up ever and again, whilst smoke from the preceding shells coiled and drifted away to the west.

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.

1917, APRIL 1st – TO SAILOR’S WOOD IN SUPPORT OF THE 2/1st BUCKS

Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lieutenant) Surrey Yeomanry passing round a crater on the main Amiens-St.Quentin Road, near Vermand.  21st April 1917.

Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lieutenant)
Surrey Yeomanry passing round a crater on the main Amiens-St.Quentin Road, near Vermand.
21st April 1917.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM FIRST WORLD WAR MAPS COLLECTION" (photographs) Map Vermand. Edition 1A 62C SE2.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM FIRST WORLD WAR MAPS COLLECTION” (photographs)
Map Vermand. Edition 1A 62C SE2.

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

C and D Companies moved to Sailor’s Wood, in close support to the 2/1st Bucks.

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 3 a.m. on April 1 C and D Companies were ordered forward to support the Bucks in an attack on the line of single railway which runs northwards from Vermand. The attack gained the ridge east of the railway and no support by us was wanted. Ten prisoners were captured by the Bucks, whose only casualties resulted from our own shells dropping short and an unfortunate mistake of some other troops, who lost direction and, pressing forward, encountered men of their own side. Towards evening the General ordered D Company forward to occupy Montolu Wood. The journey was made at dusk through a blinding storm of hail and rain. The wood to which I went was the wrong one altogether. Nevertheless to my wood my company returned twice later, till tactical recognition was gained for it from the failure of the staff to observe the mistake and my own to disclose it. The wood I went to was some half-mile distant from the proper one, but the same shape, as near the railway, and answering the General’s map-description to a nicety. I like to think of my wood, where I was so rarely found, whither perplexed runners brought orders so late, where I never was relieved, but where my old shelters of tin and brushwood escaped disturbance in my absence.

1917, MARCH 31st – REACHED AND BIVOUACED AT CAULAINCOURT CHATEAU

part of "MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION" Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lt)  1917-04-21 German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Ruins of Caulaincourt Chateau on the River Omignon.

part of “MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION” Photograph by: Brooks Ernest (Lt)
1917-04-21
German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Ruins of Caulaincourt Chateau on the River Omignon.

By G. K. Rose.

By G. K. Rose.

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

and the next night made bivouacs at Caulaincourt Château, formerly German Corps Headquarters, now wrecked past recognition. Amid the rubbish, whose heaps represented buildings of grace and dignity, the eye caught the half of a gigantic Easter egg. During our stay a German High Velocity gun several times shelled the château grounds. Our own artillery was now getting to work and made the nights lively with noise and flashes.

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