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

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1916, DECEMBER 16th – WORKING PARTY NEAR MOUQUET FARM

 

The Remains of Mouquet Farm, October 1916

The Remains of Mouquet Farm, October 1916

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

I take December 16–a Saturday. My company was warned for working party last night, so at 6 a.m. we get up, dress, and, after a hurried breakfast, parade in semi-darkness. As the outing is not a popular one and reduction in numbers is resented by the R.E., the roll is called by Sergeant Major Brooks (recently back from leave and in the best of early morning tempers) amid much coughing and scuffling about in the ranks. At 7 a.m. we start our journey towards the scene of labour, some 80 strong (passing for 100). We go first along a broad-gauge railway line (forbidden to be used for foot traffic) and afterwards through Aveluy and past Crucifix Corner to near Mouquet Farm.

After a trivial delay of perhaps 40 minutes, the D.C.L.I. or 479 have observed our arrival and tools are counted out and issued, the homely pick and shovel. The task is pleasantly situated about 150 yards in front of several batteries of our field guns (which open fire directly we are in position) and consists in relaxing duckboards, excavating the submerged sleepers of a light railway or digging the trench for a buried cable.

Perhaps the work only requires 50, not 100 (nor even 80) men. Very well! It is a pity those others came, but here are a thousand sandbags to fill, and there a pile of logs dumped in the wrong place last night, so let them get on with it! For six hours we remain steadily winning the war in this manner and mildly wondering at the sense of things and whether the Germans will shell the batteries just behind our work–until, without hooter or whistle, the time to break off has arrived. By 3 p.m. the party is threading its way back, and as darkness falls once more reaches the camp. Cries of ‘Dinner up’ and ‘Tea up’ resound through the huts, and all is eating and shouting.

SIDE NOTE: Ivor Gurney of the 2/5th Gloucester Regiment wrote the following poem about Crucifix Corner.

Crucifix Corner

There was a water dump there, and regimental
Carts came every day to line up and fill full
Those rolling tanks with chlorinated clear mixture;
And curse the mud with vain veritable vexture.
Aveluy across the valley, billets, shacks, ruins,
With time and time a crump there to mark doings.
On New Year’s Eve the marsh glowed tremulous
With rosy mist still holding late marvellous
Sun-glow, the air smelt home; the time breathed home.
Noel not put away; new term not yet come,
All things said ‘Severn’, the air was full of those calm meadows;
Transport rattled somewhere in the southern shadows;
Stars that were not strange ruled the most quiet high
Arch of soft sky, starred and most grave to see, most high.
What should break that but gun-noise or last Trump?
But neither came. At sudden, with light jump
Clarinet sang into ‘Hundred Pipers and A”,
Aveluy’s Scottish answered with pipers true call
‘Happy we’ve been a’together.’ When nothing
Stayed of war-weariness or winter’s loathing,
Crackers with Christmas stockings hung in the heavens,
Gladness split discipline in sixes and sevens,
Hunger ebb’d magically mixed with strange leavens;
Forgotten, forgotten the hard time’s true clothing,
And stars were happy to see Man making Fate plaything.

 

 

 

61ST (SOUTH MIDLAND) DIVISION Second Line, From the Territorial Divisions, 1914-1918 by John Stirling

The Territorial Divisions, 1914-1918 (1922), John Stirling, J. M. Dent

61ST (SOUTH MIDLAND) DIVISION Second Line

The Division went to France in May 1916. On 19th-20th July they and an Australian division made an attack in the Neuve Chapelle district. Ground was gained but could not be held as the guns on the Aubers Ridge had command of it.

The despatch from Sir Douglas Haig, dated 31st May, 1917, paragraph 13, Messrs. Dent’s edition, shows that the 61st was one of the divisions employed in pursuing and pressing the enemy when he retreated from the neighbourhood of the Somme battlefield in March 1917. On 17th March the 61st and 2nd Australian Divisions captured Chaulnes and Bapaume.

The Division was for a time in the Third Battle of Ypres and, as part of the XIX. Corps, attacked on 22nd and 27th August and 5th September, 1917.

The Cambrai despatch of 20th February, 1918, paragraph 9 (Dent’s edition) and map opposite p. 163, shows that the 61st was in reserve on 30th November, 1917, when the enemy made his great counter-attack. On the night of the 1st December they took over from the 12th in the neighbourhood of La Vacquerie and for some days thereafter had to fight hard to stem the German flood; in this they were successful.

The Division saw a great deal of heavy fighting in 1918 and was frequently mentioned in despatches. It formed part of the XVIII. Corps, Fifth Army, in March of that year and was engaged throughout the whole of the British retreat. At the end of ten days’ continuous fighting the strength of the Division was down to about 2000. They came out of the battle with a splendid reputation, which was to be enhanced later, on the Lys.

In the telegraphic despatch of 26th March, 1918, Sir Douglas Haig said: “In the past six days of constant fighting our troops on all parts of the battle-front have shown the utmost courage,” and among divisions which had exhibited “exceptional gallantry ” he mentioned the 61st.

In the written despatch of 20th July, 1918, paragraph 15, which deals with the 21st March, it is stated: “Assisted by the long spell of dry weather hostile infantry had crossed the river and canal north of La Fere, and, south of St. Quentin, had penetrated into the battle-zone between Essigny and Benay. At Maissemy, also, our battle positions were entered at about noon, but the vigorous resistance of the 61st and 24th Divisions, assisted by troops of the 1st Cavalry Division, prevented the enemy from developing his success.”

The Division held its battle position intact against the assaults of three German divisions, and only retired in the afternoon of the 22nd when ordered to do so in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.

In his History of the British Campaign in France and Flanders, vol. v.. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gives a full account of the very arduous work of the XVIII. Corps in the March retreat, and frequently refers to the conduct of the 61st Division in terms of very high praise. He gives a detailed description of the most heroic resistance of the battalions in the front line on the morning of 21st March and, as an example of what was done, he tells the story of the 2 /4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry which, under Colonel Wetherall, held out in the Enghien Redoubt until it was finally submerged by the ever increasing waves from the three German divisions which attacked the front of the 61st. This took place about 4.30 p.m.

Mr. Sparrow in his The Fifth Army in March 1918, also gives many particulars of the splendid defence put up by the forward battalions of the 61st, on the 21st, as well as of the endless encounters they had during the retreat. On p. 239 he mentions that parts of the Division were first attacked at 5 a.m. on the 21st, and were only two miles back at 3 a.m. on the 23rd, although for 48 hours the 61st was attacked by three German divisions. On p. 102 he refers to it as ” this brave Division ” and says that a Special Order of the day, dated 18th April, stated that between 21st March and that date the 61st had been opposed by 14 German divisions.

At p. 287 Mr. Sparrow remarks that the 61st had been continuously in the line since 27th August, 1917, except when moving from one part to another, and “then fought for twelve continuous days.” Paragraph 24 of the despatch states that on the morning of the 23rd the Commander of the Fifth Army ordered ” a gradual withdrawal to the line of the Somme.”

Paragraph 26: A gap occurred in our line near Ham and bodies of Germans succeeded in crossing the river. ” In the afternoon these forces increased in strength, gradually pressing back our troops, until a spirited counter-attack by troops of the 20th and 61st Divisions about Verlaines restored the situation in this locality.”

The fighting between 21st-23rd March is now designated the ” Battle of St. Quentin.”

Paragraph 31, ” The Fight for the Somme Crossings”: On the 24th various bodies of the enemy had been able to effect crossings at different points. ” During the remainder of the day the enemy repeated his attacks at these and other points, and also exercised strong pressure in a westerly and south- westerly direction from Ham. Our troops offered a vigorous resistance and opposite Ham a successful counter-attack by the 1/5th (Pioneer) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, 61st Division, materially delayed his advance.”

Paragraph 44: On 28th March the British were almost back to the Amiens defences and the enemy were seriously pressing the French on our right. “A gallant attempt by troops of the 61st Division to regain Warfusee-Abancourt and lighten the pressure from the north proved unsuccessful. … At night- fall we held approximately the Amiens defence line on the whole front south of the Somme.” Fortunately that same day the enemy had been defeated north of the Somme (see 56th, 42nd and 62nd Divisions), and in a few days his offensive on the front south of Arras ceased.

In his account of the 28th, Mr. Sparrow deals with the work of ” the intrepid 61st,” and remarks ‘ one and all behaved with the greatest gallantry.”

In Colonel a Court Repington’s Memoirs, The First World War, Constable, vol. ii., p. 269, there is detailed a conversation, on 7th April, 1918, with General Gough, the Commander of the Fifth Army. After some particulars of the great struggle there occurs the sentence, ” He brought with him some of Maxse’s notes, which mentioned particularly the fine conduct of the 61st Division, under Colin Mackenzie.” Lieut. -General Maxse commanded the XVIII. Corps.

The despatch of 20th July, 1918, deals also with the Lys battle which began on 9th April, 1918 (see 55th, 49th, 50th and 51st Divisions). Paragraph 58 shows that several divisions were brought straight from the Somme fighting to the Lys area. Among these was the 61st. Dealing with the 12th April, the despatch states: ” On the left of the 51st the 61st Division was coming into action about the Clarence river. Both the 3rd and 61st Divisions had been engaged in many days of continuous fighting south of Arras; but with the arrival of these troops, battle-weary though they were, the enemy’s progress in this sector was definitely checked.”

The fighting 12th-15th April is now the ” Battle of Hazebrouck.”

Paragraph 65 deals with the great effort made by the enemy on 18th April on the southern front of his salient. ” At certain points there was severe and continuous fighting. . . . Elsewhere the enemy failed to obtain even an initial success, being repulsed, with exceedingly heavy loss, at all points, by the 4th and 61st Divisions.” And, referring to a few days later: “Further west the 4th Division, in co-operation with the 61st Division, carried out a series of successful local operations, north of the La Bassee canal, resulting in the capture of some hundreds of prisoners, and a considerable improvement of our positions between the Lawe and Clarence rivers.”

The action on 18th April is now the ” Battle of Bethune.”

The Division joined the XVII. Corps early in October 1918, and with it took part in the ” Advance to Victory.”

The despatch of 21st December, 1918, as to the final British offensive, paragraph 47, Battle of the Selle River, 17th-25th October, shows that the 61st Division, as part of the XVII. Corps of the Third Army, attacked on 24th October. ” About many of the woods and villages which lay in the way of our attack there was severe fighting, particularly in the large wood known as the Bois L’fiveque, and at Pom.rnereuil, Bousies Forest and Vendegies-surficaillon. This latter village held out till the after- noon of the 24th October when it was taken by an enveloping attack by troops of the 19th Division and 61st Division.”

Paragraph 49, ” The Battle of the Sambre,” 1st-2th November: As a preliminary to the main attack it is stated that on 1st November ” the XVII. Corps of the Third Army and the XXII. and Canadian Corps of the First Army attacked on a front of about six miles south of Valenciennes and in the course of two days of heavy fighting inflicted a severe defeat on the enemy. During these two days the 61st, Major-General F. J. Duncan, 49th and 4th Divisions crossed the Rhonelle river, capturing Maresches and Preseau after a stubborn struggle, and established themselves on the high ground two miles to the east of it. On their left the 4th Canadian Division captured Valenciennes and made progress beyond the town.”

The fighting on 1st-2nd November is now designated the ” Battle of Valenciennes.” On the 3rd November the enemy withdrew, and the British line was advanced. The XVII. Corps was again employed on the left of the Third Army in the Battle of the Sambre on the 4th November when ” the enemy’s resistance was definitely broken.”

Battalions from the Division were selected for the Armies of Occupation, as follows: Western Front, 2/6th and 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment and 1/5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (Pioneers). For Egypt, 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment, 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment.

61st Division at the end of the War, 11th November 1918

61st (South Midland) DIVISION [Major General Duncan] –in corps reserve

182 Brigade [Brigadier General Evans]
2/6th Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment
2/7th Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment
2/8th Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment
182 Light Trench Mortar Battery

183 Brigade [Brigadier General Anley]
1/9th Bn Royal Scots
1/5th Bn Gordon Highlanders
1/8th Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
183 Light Trench Mortar Battery

184 Brigade [Brigadier General Thorne]
2/4th Bn Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
2/5th Bn Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
2/4th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment
184 Light Trench Mortar Battery

Division Artillery [Brigadier General Ooseley]
306 Brigade RFA: A B C D Batteries
307 Brigade RFA: A B C D Batteries
X & Y Medium Trench Mortar Batteries

61 Machine Gun Battalion

1/5th Bn Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry (pioneer bn)

476, 478, 479 Field Companies RE

61 Signal Company

61st (South Midland) Division

From The territorial divisions, 1914-1918 (1922) by John Sterling

61ST (SOUTH MIDLAND) DIVISION
Second Line

The Division went to France in May 1916. On I9th-20th July they and an Australian division made an attack in the Neuve Chapelle district. Ground was gained but could not be held as the guns on the Aubers Ridge had command of it.

The despatch from Sir Douglas Haig, dated 31st May, 1917, paragraph 13, Messrs. Dent’s edition, shows that the 61st was one of the divisions employed in pursuing and pressing the enemy when he retreated from the neighbourhood of the Somme
battlefield in March 1917. On 17th March the 61st and 2nd Australian Divisions captured and Bapaume.

The Division was for a time in the Third Battle of Ypres and, as part of the XIX. Corps, attacked on 22nd and 27th August and 5th September, 1917.

The Cambrai despatch of 20th February, 1918, paragraph 9 (Dent’s edition) and map opposite p. 163, shows that the 61st was in reserve on 30th November, 1917, when the enemy made his great counter-attack. On the night of the 1st December
they took over from the 12th in the neighbourhood of La Vacquerie and for some days thereafter had to fight hard to stem the German flood; in this they were successful.

The Division saw a great deal of heavy fighting in 1918 and was frequently mentioned in despatches. It formed part of the XVIII. Corps, Fifth Army, in March of that year and was engaged throughout the whole of the British retreat. At the end of ten
days’ continuous fighting the strength of the Division was down to about 2000. They came out of the battle with a splendid reputation, which was to be enhanced later, on the Lys.

In the telegraphic despatch of 26th March, 1918, Sir Douglas Haig said: “In the past six days of constant fighting our troops on all parts of the battle-front have shown the utmost courage,” and
among divisions which had exhibited “exceptional gallantry ” he mentioned the 61st.

In the written despatch of 20th July, 1918, paragraph 15, which deals with the 21st March, it is stated: “Assisted by the long spell of dry weather hostile infantry had crossed the river and canal north of La Fere, and, south of St. Quentin, had penetrated into the battle-zone between Essigny and Benay. At Maissemy, also, our battle positions were entered at about noon, but the vigorous resistance of the 61st and 24th Divisions, assisted by troops of the 1st Cavalry Division, prevented the enemy from developing his success.”

The Division held its battle position intact against the assaults of three German divisions, and only retired in the afternoon of the 22nd when ordered to do so in consequence of the enemy’s progress at other parts of the line.

In his History of the British Campaign in France and Flanders, vol. v.. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gives a full account of the very arduous work of the XVIII. Corps in the March retreat, and frequently
refers to the conduct of the 61st Division in terms of very high praise. He gives a detailed description of the most heroic resistance of the battalions in the front line on the morning of 21st March and, as an example of what was done, he tells the story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light
Infantry which, under Colonel Wetherall, held out in the Enghien Redoubt until it was finally submerged by the ever increasing waves from the three German divisions which attacked the front of the 61st. This took place about 4.30 p.m.

Mr. Sparrow in his The Fifth Army in March 1918, also gives many particulars of the splendid defence put up by the forward battalions of the 61st, on the 21st, as well as of the endless en-
counters they had during the retreat. On p. 239 he mentions that parts of the Division were first attacked at 5 a.m. on the 21st, and were only two miles back at 3 a.m. on the 23rd, although for
48 hours the 6ist was attacked by three German divisions. On p. 102 he refers to it as ” this brave Division ” and says that a Special Order of the day, dated 18th April, stated that between 21st March and that date the 61st had been opposed by 14 German divisions.

At p. 287 Mr. Sparrow remarks that the 61st had been continuously in the line since 27th August, 1917, except when moving from one part to another, and “then fought for twelve continuous days.”

Paragraph 24 of the despatch states that on the morning of the 23rd the Commander of the Fifth Army ordered ” a gradual withdrawal to the line of the Somme.”

Paragraph 26: A gap occurred in our line near Ham and bodies of Germans succeeded in crossing the river. ” In the afternoon these forces increased in strength, gradually pressing back our troops, until a spirited counter-attack by troops of the 20th and 61st Divisions about Verlaines restored the situation in this locality.”

The fighting between 21st-23rd March is now designated the “Battle of St. Quentin.”

Paragraph 31, ” The Fight for the Somme Crossings”: On the 24th various bodies of the enemy had been able to effect crossings at different points. “During the remainder of the day the enemy repeated his attacks at these and other points, and also exercised strong pressure in a westerly and south-westerly direction from Ham. Our troops offered a vigorous resistance and opposite Ham a successful counter-attack by the 1/5th (Pioneer) Battalion,
Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, 61st Division, materially delayed his advance.”

Paragraph 44: On 28th March the British were almost back to the Amiens defences and the enemy were seriously pressing the French on our right. “A gallant attempt by troops of the 61st Division to regain Warfusee-Abancourt and lighten the pressure
from the north proved unsuccessful. … At nightfall we held approximately the Amiens defence line on the whole front south of the Somme.”

Fortunately that same day the enemy had been defeated north of the Somme (see 56th, 42nd and 62nd Divisions), and in a few days his offensive on the front south of Arras ceased.

In his account of the 28th, Mr. Sparrow deals with the work of ” the intrepid 61st,” and remarks ‘one and all behaved with the greatest gallantry.”

In Charles a Court Repington’s Memoirs, The First World War, Constable, vol. ii., p. 269, there is detailed a conversation, on 7th April, 1918, with General Gough, the Commander of the Fifth
Army. After some particulars of the great struggle there occurs the sentence, ” He brought with him some of Maxse’s notes, which mentioned particularly the fine conduct of the 6ist Division, under Colin Mackenzie.” Lieut. General Maxse commanded the
XVIII. Corps.

The despatch of 20th July, 1918, deals also with the Lys battle which began on 9th April, 1918 (see 55th, 49th, 50th and 51st Divisions). Paragraph 58 shows that several divisions were brought straight from the Somme fighting to the Lys area. Among
these was the 61st. Deahng with the 12th April, the despatch states: ” On the left of the 51st the 61st Division was coming into action about the Clarence river. Both the 3rd and 6ist Divisions had been engaged in many days of continuous fighting south of Arras ; but with the arrival of these troops, battle-weary though they were, the enemy’s progress in this sector was definitely checked.”

The fighting 12th-15th April is now the ” Battle of Hazebrouck.”

Paragraph 65 deals with the great effort made by the enemy on 18th April on the southern front of his salient. ” At certain points there was severe and continuous fighting. . . . Elsewhere the enemy failed to obtain even an initial success, being repulsed, with exceedingly heavy loss, at all points, by the 4th and 61st Divisions.” And, referring to a few days later: “Further west the 4th Division, in co-operation with the 61st Division, carried out a series of successful local operations, north of the La Bassee canal, resulting in the capture of some hundreds of prisoners, and a considerable improvement of our positions between the Lawe and
Clarence rivers.” The action on i8th April is now the ” Battle of Bethune.”

The Division joined the XVII. Corps early in October 1918, and with it took part in the ” Advance to Victory.”

The despatch of 21st December, 1918, as to the final British offensive, paragraph 47, Battle of the Selle River, I7th-25th October, shows that the 61st Division, as part of the XVII. Corps of the Third Army, attacked on 24th October. ” About many
of the woods and villages which lay in the way of our attack there was severe fighting, particularly in the large wood known as the Bois L’fiveque, and at Pom.rnereuil, Bousies Forest and Vendegies-surficaillon. This latter village held out till the afternoon of the 24th October when it was taken by an enveloping attack by troops of the 19th Division and 61st Division.”

Paragraph 49, ” The Battle of the Sambre,” 1st-11th November: As a preliminary to the main attack it is stated that on 1st November ” the XVII. Corps of the Third Army and the XXII. and Canadian Corps of the First Army attacked on a front of about six miles south of Valenciennes and in the course of two days of heavy fighting inflicted a severe defeat on the enemy. During these two days the 6ist, Major-General F. J. Duncan, 49th and 4th Divisions crossed the Rhonelle river, capturing Maresches and Preseau after a stubborn struggle, and established themselves on the high ground two miles to the east of it. On their left the 4th Canadian Division captured Valenciennes and made progress beyond the town.”

The fighting on ist-2nd November is now designated the ” Battle of Valenciennes.”

On the 3rd November the enemy withdrew, and the British line was advanced.

The XVII. Corps was again employed on the left of the Third Army in the Battle of the Sambre on the 4th November when ” the enemy’s resistance was definitely broken.”

Battalions from the Division were selected for the Armies of Occupation, as follows: Western Front, 2/6th and 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 2/5th Gloucestershire Regiment and 1/5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantiy (Pioneers). For Egypt,
2/8th Worcestershire Regiment, 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment.

184 Infantry Brigade Report on Operations, 19th/20th July 1916

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.

“On the 19th July the Brigade (with 183rd Brigade on our right and the 15th Australian Brigade on our left) was ordered to attack, capture and hold with two battalions (2/1 Bucks and 2/4 Royal Berks) the German Front and Support Lines from N 14 a 60. 25 to N 8 d 95. 10. – Two Companies of the 2/4 Oxfords were placed at the disposal of the Brigadier to occupy our front Line in the event of all Companies in the Assaulting Battalions being absorbed in the same: the 2/5 Glosters and remaining two Companies of 2/4 Oxfords were in Divisional Reserve.

The following were also placed at the disposal of the Brigadier: 3rd Field Company R.E. and ‘B’ Company 1/5th Duke of Cornwall’s L.I (Pioneers)

By 9.0.a.m. the Brigade was disposed, in accordance with orders. (vide Sketch No.1).

2 Vickers Machine Guns were posted in the front Line in support of the attack, 4 Vickers Machine Guns were detailed to follow the Assaulting Companies on the positions being captured. 6 Vickers Guns were detailed for indirect fire from vicinity of JOCKS LODGE. Owing to the difficulty of coming within effective range, only one Stokes Mortar was detained to bombard the SUGAR LOAF, it was arranged for 4 Stokes Mortars to follow the Assaulting Companies.

The Assaulting Companies No. 1 & No. 2 were ordered to attack in 4 waves at 20 yards distance.

The 3rd Company was to follow as soon as the position was reported captured, carrying consolidating material. Each
consolidating Company had 4 R.E. and 4 Pioneers detailed to accompany same – An R.E. and a Pioneer officer were also
detailed to supervise work of consolidation.

A portion of Reserve Companies were ordered to carry across NO MAN’S LAND reserve bombs and S.A.A.

Arrangements were made for a party of 3rd Australian Mining Company, under Major Coulter, to blow up, by means of an
ammonal pipe, a continuation of the RHONDDA SAP, after this had been effected for the Pioneer Company attached to the Brigade to dig a communication trench between N 8.d. 25. 15 on the SUGAR LOAF to the RHONDDA SAP – parties working from both sides.

Diary of Events (11. a.m. to 6. p.m.)

11. a.m. Our Artillery opened fire

11.50.a.m. Reported that enemy had shelled our Left Sub-section heavily – some casualties.

12.55 p.m. Report received that enemy’s Artillery fire had diminished slightly – A few salvos on RUE DE TILLELOY

1.20. PM. Report received ROTTEN ROW Communication Trench heavily shelled by 77 mm.

2.10.p.m. Report received that our Support Trenches were heavily shelled with H.E.

2.30.p.m. Telephonic communication with Front Line temporarily severed

2.44.p.m. Enemy firing 103 c.m. on BOND ST Communication Trench

3.25.p.m. The whole sectional Front heavily shelled. Communication effected by Runners

4.24 p.m. Our C.T’s. heavily shelled -BOND ST Communication Trench & PICANTIN AVENUE especially

5.15.p.m.Damage to our Front Line Parapet very severe (numerous casualties)

5.30.p.m. Owing to heavy casualties in Assaulting Companies of both battalions I gave orders for 2 platoons from reserve
Companies to reinforce former – the consolidating companies to be left intact.

6.00.p.m. Communication by telephone with Front Line re-established by laying an additional line from Advanced Battalion H.Q.

Up to 5.30.pm.owing chiefly to the crowded condition of our Front Line Trenches, considerable casualties had taken place,
amounting to 100 killed and wounded in 2/Bucks and 40 killed and wounded in the 4/Royal Berks. This necessitated reorganisation of the Assaulting and consolidating Companies.

At 5.45 p.m. on the right 4/Royal Berks commenced to file out through 2 Sally Ports. On emerging from same they encountered severe Machine Gun Fire – numerous casualties ensued. A certain proportion of the Right Company got through the Sally Ports but only in scattered parties – some of whom are reported to have reached the German wire but, beingunsupported and under heavy machine gun fire and shrapnel fire, were compelled to fall back, they reported that the Germanwire at X 20, X 21 was uncut. A few men only of the left company, 4/Royal Berks got through the Sally Port under heavy Machine Gun fire but failed to advance any appreciable distance. Whilst directing these men from the parapet Lt. Col. J N Beer was killed. Several officers were killed and wounded in endeavouring to initiate an organised forward movement.

At 5.40.pm. the 2/Bucks commenced to file through the Sally Ports but, owing to severe Machine Gun fire directed at the latter,
Lt. Col Williams decided to utilise the Rhondda Sap. This was carried out and the 2 Assaulting Companies were successfully
deployed from head of same., they were however subjected to heavy Machine Gun and shrapnel fire and a certain number of
casualties occurred, whilst waves were getting into position.

At 6.0.p.m punctually the 2/Bucks advanced to the Assault, a withering Machine Gun fire was encountered which mowed down
a large proportion of men, especially with the Right Company. A portion of Capt. Church’s Company on the left pressed through the enemy’s wire on the N.E. face of the Sugar Loaf and fierce fighting was seen to take place on the parapet. A good proportion of this Company, ably led by Captain Church (who was killed just before the glacis (sic) to enemy’s breastworks) got into the Germans trenches. (This has been substantiated by reports from the Right Battalion of the 15thAustralian Brigade)

Owing to the 4/Royal Berks having been driven back on their Right and the same thing having occurred to the Right Battalion
of the 15th Australian Brigade on their left, this lack of support on their flanks seriously impaired what chances the 2/1st Bucks
had of capturing the SUGAR LOAF. The C.O. is of the opinion (with which I concur) that if 2 Reserve Companies had been available at this period fro throwing into the assault, a substantial lodgement would undoubtedly been effected in the SUGAR LOAF. 61 missing N.C.O’s and men in this Battalion testifies to the belief that a considerable proportion of the Left Company of this Battalion got into the German Trenches.

Owing to want of support and heavy casualties the 2/1st Bucks were compelled to effect a withdrawal In accordance with orders,
C.O.s, 2/4 R.Berks and 2/1st Bucks then reorganised their battalions with the view to launching a second attack.

During the enemy bombardment shells emitting a dense column of light green smoke were observable in the vicinity of the Red House (Regimental First Aid Post)

At 6.0.p.m the 1/8 Cornwall’s left the Assembly trenches and proceeded to the Rhondda Gap and started improving it.

184 Machine Gun Company – The Machine Gun company fired 30,000 rounds with indirect fire and supporting the Infantry
attack. 3 of their guns were put out of action by bullets. They endeavoured to silence the enemy’s guns.

184 Light Trench Mortars – The one gun in the Front Line at 4.30. pm. fired 30 rounds on the SUGAR LOAF obtaining direct
hits.
Communications were maintained throughout the Operations from Brigade and Battalion H.Q. From Battalion H.Q. to the Front
Line they were cut between 2 and 3.p.m. but were re-established by 6,0.p.m. Runners were employed and were most satisfactory.”

1/5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

December 1916
“We go first along a broad-gauge railway line (forbidden to be used for foot traffic) and afterwards through Aveluy and past Crucifix Corner to near Mouquet Farm. After a trivial delay of perhaps 40 minutes, the D.C.L.I. or 479 have observed out arrival and tools are counted out and issued, the homeIy pick and shovel.”

“The British advance having reached a standstill, the enemy’s artillery was now firing from more forward positions and paid much attention to places like Mouquet Farm, “Fullock’s Corner, Zollern Redoubt and Field Trench. Parties of D.C.L.I. were daily at work upon the latter, duckboarding and revetting, and completed a fine pioneers’ job right up to Hessian. Field Trench ranked among the best performances of the Cornwalls, whose work altogether at this time deserved high praise.”

April 1918
“Except for Howitt there was no staff officer upon the spot, and we found after passing St. Venant towards Robecq that it was evervman for himself in the task of stemming the German attack. Parts of the Division, notably the 5th D.C.L.I. and the 2/6th Warwicks, which had been detrained earlier than ourselves to join in the battle, had been roughly handled in fighting south of Merville during the night of April 11/12.”

More Details on the 1/5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry

Part of Devon and Cornwall Brigade in Wessex Division. Moved on mobilisation to Falmouth but by end of August 1914 was at Salisbury Plain. Foreign service volunteers were moved to the 1/4th Bn; the 1/5th was now understrength and was replaced in the Brigade by the 1/6th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment. Moved to Newquay and then Falmouth. Moved in April 1916 to Perham Down. April 1916 : moved to Tidworth and converted into a Pioneer Battalion, attached to 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. Landed at Le Havre 22 May 1916.”

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